Last few days have been hectic, but I’ve been doing some catch-up work on the 2014 HS class in whatever downtime I’ve had. I’ll preface all mentions of prep talent by reminding anybody who will listen that I’m a) not a scout, and b) not a guy with the magical powers of teleportation and therefore don’t stick to the admirable rule of only ranking players I’ve seen in person. That said, I did see way more HS baseball (including everybody listed below) this past summer than damn near anybody in the country not drawing a paycheck for their work, wonderfully devoted parents of players not included. I actually think I saw more HS baseball this summer than I’ve seen in the four — has it been that long? — summers I’ve been running the site put together, though you could argue that’s more of an indictment of my prior laziness/cheapness than anything else. Again, I don’t mention any of that to position myself as any kind of authority on the matter, just providing some context and background.
It should be no surprise that I find the players who currently rank second at each spot way more fascinating to discuss at this juncture, but we have plenty of time to flesh out longer position lists in the coming weeks. I don’t think there are any particularly insightful picks here as I’m fairly certain these align with much of what the internet currently thinks about this class, but I’ll do my best to briefly explain my rationale and hopefully provide something a little bit different from the copy/paste world we live in. First the “team” (2-9 on the diamond only, no pitchers yet) and then me rambling…
C/OF Alex Jackson (Rancho Bernardo HS, California)
1B Jeremy Vasquez (Martin County HS, Florida)
2B/SS Greg Deichmann (Brother Martin HS, Louisiana)
SS/RHP Nick Gordon (Olympia HS, Florida)
3B/SS Jacob Gatewood (Redwood HS, California)
OF/1B Braxton Davidson (Roberson HS, North Carolina)
OF/RHP Michael Gettys (Gainesville HS, Georgia)
OF Marcus Wilson (Junipero Serra HS, California)
I know I’ve mentioned it before, but after seeing Alex Jackson up close a few times, I never could quite grasp why so many wanted to move him off catcher as soon as the ink dries on his first pro deal. He’s a first round prep catcher for me, but not necessarily a slam dunk first round prep bat (though damn close), if that makes sense. As a point of reference (and not comp), newly minted OF Stryker Trahan’s development path is probably how I’d approach Jackson’s future. Give Jackson a real, honest chance to catch, but be prepared to make the switch if circumstances call for it. If that sounds like common sense, well, that’s because it is.
1B, 2B, and third OF were easily the toughest calls. I know I could have made life much easier by classifying Braxton Davidson as a 1B (where my comp of him to Freddie Freeman works even better), but he’s good enough in an outfield corner that it would be a shame not to at least try him there at first. Jeremy Vasquez doesn’t have the power upside that would make me feel more confident in his spot atop a position list known for the long ball, but he does too many other things so well at the plate — the man can track offspeed stuff like a seasoned vet — that I like the upside regardless.
Greg Deichmann’s placement is dangerous because I think that’s the one spot where I went with my own eyes more than my accrued notes. Maybe I’ll regret it, but there were few players I saw hit the ball as hard and as often as Deichmann did throughout the last nine or so months.
Marcus Wilson’s eye-opening skills (his tools are awesome, obviously, but he was much, much further along as a ballplayer than I was led to believe prior to seeing him live) made me a believer over time, so that’s why I narrowly went with him as the third OF. Still love Stone Garrett, newly fallen for Matt Railey, and extremely impressed with the Zach S’s (Sullivan and Shannon), so expect this race to tighten over time. There’s also Monte Harrison, Scott Hurst, Luke Bonfield, Kevin Bryant, Gareth Morgan, Dalton Ewing, Alex Verdugo, to say nothing of all the speed/range standouts like Carl Chester, Derek Hill, and Todd Isaacs. (I didn’t name everybody at the top, so don’t scream at me for “forgetting” your guy…or do, and we can talk about him in the comments/via email!). It’s a good year for prep outfielders, but, then again, it’s always a good year for prep outfielders, you know?
SS was surprisingly close, but that’s not a knock on the top guy in the least. Nick Gordon in so many ways reminded me of JP Crawford, last year’s 16th overall pick, every time I saw him this summer. All the reports that say he’s bulked up and looks better than ever early this season are nothing but encouraging. Easy first round talent. What made the battle for the top spot close, however, is my enduring infatuation with Ti’Quan Forbes. Not only do I think the gap between Gordon and Forbes is smaller than most, I’ll go the extra step and make the direct and obvious (in my mind) link between the 6-4, 180 pound middle infielder to this class’ other oversized shortstop, none other than Jacob Gatewood. I’m a big Gatewood fan — he’s comfortably atop the 3B rankings, and would have ranked tops at SS or OF if that’s where you happen to think he winds up professionally — but I can’t say that there is nearly as much separation between Forbes and Gatewood as many on the internet currently believe. These next few months will be especially huge for both Gatewood and Forbes, so…we’ll see.
Almost 1,000 words so far and I couldn’t find a way to shoehorn Michael Gettys into the conversation. I’ll say this: the Clint Frazier comp that is now the norm in every report you read on the internet about him could not have felt more real the first time (without hearing that comp, either) I saw him up close. The arm, the smarts, the build, the style of play…it is a very natural fit. I’ll see the industry’s Frazier comp and raise it one better. Watch out now. Person in baseball that I trust (or, as I like to think of him, a PIBTIT) mentioned this one to me and I can’t say I hate it. Michael Gettys, he of the easy plus arm strength, big raw power, ample speed, and quick bat occasionally mitigated by an overly aggressive approach to hitting, reminded him of none other than Yasiel Puig. Love comps, hate comps, no strong feelings about comps because you stumbled across this site by accident and are frantically trying to click the tiny red X to escape the insanity of one man’s thousands of hours spent analyzing teenage ballplayers…but, come on, that’s a pretty cool one to have out there.