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2016 MLB Draft Prospect Preview: HS Outfielders

In 2013, we had Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier battle down to the wire to see which prep outfielder from the state of Georgia would wind up the first off the board. In 2016, we’re set to have Mickey Moniak and Blake Rutherford, both from California, go back and forth until June to see who goes higher. Forced narrative or something more? I’m inclined to say it’s more than former than the latter –considering it’s a narrative I personally made up mere minutes ago, that should make some sense – but suggesting that the two head-to-head battles run parallel in some ways isn’t crazy. Despite some internet comparisons that paint him as the Meadows, I think the better proxy for Rutherford is Frazier. Issues with handedness, height, and hair hue aside, Frazier as a starting point for Rutherford (offensively only as Frazier’s arm strength blows the average-ish arm of Rutherford away) can be used because the two both have really good looking well-balanced swings, tons of bat speed, and significant raw power. The parallel gets a little bit of extra juice when you consider Frazier and Rutherford were/are also both a little bit older than their draft counterparts.

The extra bit of youth isn’t what gives Moniak the edge for me, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. What separates Moniak at this present moment is his ability to hit the ball hard everywhere. Sometimes simplistic analysis works. The manner in which Moniak sprays line drives and deep flies to all fields resembles something a ten-year veteran who flirts with batting titles season after season does during BP. Trading off a little bit of Rutherford’s power for Moniak’s hit tool and approach (both in his mindfulness as a hitter and his plate discipline) are worth it for me. Of course, check back with me in a few months…I had Meadows ahead of Frazier for a long time before giving in to the latter’s arm, power, and approach (as a whole-fields power hitter, not necessarily as an OBP machine). History may yet repeat itself, but I’ll take Moniak for now.

I know more than a few Phillies fans that are dreaming about a 1-2 punch of Jason Groome and Brandon McIlwain at the top of the draft. The obvious tie-in for the casual fan is that both players are local, but bonus demands are what make it truly interesting. Money saved on a high school arm with the first pick could end up spend on the draft’s top two-sport talent only available so late due to a high price tag. McIlwain has game-changing speed, athleticism that ranks at or near the top of the entire class, and the kind of bat speed, coordination, and pitch recognition that is typically not associated with a four-star QB recruit. Check this out

[He] has true bat speed and strength, and makes adjustments against better pitching. His other tools are outrageous: he’s a plus-plus runner with Gold Glove potential in center field and a strong throwing arm that grades out above-average as well. [He] plays with supreme confidence that goes hand-in-hand with his well-above-average athletic ability.

That’s Baseball America’s pre-draft report on Donavan Tate. I think there are definitely some similarities between the amateur version of Tate and McIlwain now. I’m not suggesting McIlwain will rise to Tate’s draft heights (3rd overall pick) nor do I think McIlwain’s pro career will go up in smoke like Tate’s, but simply looking at their respective tool sets as amateurs shows many similarities. I liked Tate a lot then, so it should be no shock that I like McIlwain a lot now.

Will Benson has gotten the Jason Heyward comp for just about a full year now because that’s what happens when you’re a Georgia high school player built like he is (6-6, 220) with a future right fielder profile. The comparison ceases to work when you factor in pesky factors beyond size and geography; the inclusion of baseball ability (defense and plate discipline, most notably) muddles it up, but it’s still good fun at this point in the draft process. Even though he’s not Heyward, Benson does a lot well. He’s got electric bat speed, he moves really well for a big guy, and he’s as strong as you’d expect from looking at him. If he cleans up his approach and keeps working on his defense then maybe those Heyward comparisons will begin to look a little bit smarter. Or not! It’s December and we’re talking about teenagers, so nothing is written in ink.

The gap between Benson and Avery Tuck is as tiny as it gets. I can easily see Tuck being the first of the two off the board; in fact, he might be the most likely contender of the current top tier prospects to knock Moniak/Rutherford out of the number one spot for the position group. Like Benson, Tuck is a physical specimen who looks like he was born to put on the uniform. He’s strong (though not quite on Benson’s level) with room to fill out, he’s got a really strong arm, and his athleticism is second to none. There is some swing-and-miss to his game (like Benson) that will have to be addressed, but if he can even approach an average future hit tool…well, that’s a top fifteen pick with the chance to rise higher than that. My personal feelings about Tuck’s power align with what I think about Carlos Cortes’s hit tool. In my conversations with people smarter than myself (impossible, right?), there seem to be far more questions about each (Tuck’s power, Cortes’s hit) than what I’ve seen with my novice eyes. So, as with the conversation on Cortes, if you want the consensus that I’ve gotten, then consider Tuck a really promising potential first round outfielder with average or better raw power, tons of bat speed, elite athleticism, and some real contact questions. If you want my own amateur view, then consider all that accurate but up the power to an easy plus (25+ HR at peak) with the kind of present power not typically seen in guys his age.

Alex Kirilloff is a clear step down athletically from the rest of the top tier, but, man, can he hit. If I would have kept him at first base on these rankings then there’s no question he would have finished atop that position list. He’s behind potential stars like Moniak, Rutherford, McIlwain, Benson, and Tuck for now, but that’s for reasons of defensive upside and athleticism more than anything. By June, Kirilloff’s bat might be too loud to be behind a few of those names. Seeing him this spring is a high priority for me; considering his high school plays home games about five hours away from me (to those that don’t know: Pennsylvania is a sneaky long state), that should say a lot about what I think of him as a prospect. The fact that I could stop off and get a Colossal Fish & Cheese sandwich (delicious on its own and made better with the side of nostalgia that comes with it as it was part of my first official meal as a married man last summer) only sweetens the deal. Recent draft trends have pushed athletic prep outfielders up draft boards at the expense of bigger bats, but I think Kirilloff is good enough to break through.

OF Mickey Moniak (La Costa Canyon HS, California)
OF Blake Rutherford (Chaminade Prep HS, California)
OF Brandon McIlwain (Council Rock North HS, Pennsylvania)
OF/1B Will Benson (The Westminster Schools, Georgia)
OF Avery Tuck (Steele Canyon HS, California)
OF/1B Alex Kirilloff (Plum HS, Pennsylvania)
OF Jaren Shelby (Tates Creek HS, Kentucky)
OF Akil Baddoo (Salem HS, Georgia)
OF Chase Cheek (Phillips HS, Florida)
OF Garrett Hodges (South Effingham HS, Georgia)
OF Francisco Del Valle (PR Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)
OF Taylor Trammel (Mt. Paran Christian HS, Georgia)
OF Josh Stephen (Mater Dei HS, California)
OF/LHP Khalil Lee (Flint Hill HS, Virginia)
OF Christian Long (Westside HS, Texas)
OF Dean Looney (Butler HS, North Carolina)
OF Ronald Washington (Ridge Point HS, Texas)
OF Kobie Taylor (Portsmouth HS, New Hampshire)
OF Keenan Bell (Episcopal HS, Florida)
OF Thomas Jones (Laurens 55 HS, South Carolina)
OF/LHP Austin Langworthy (Williston HS, Florida)
OF Trace Bucey (Carroll HS, Texas)
OF Michael Farley (Chico HS, California)
OF Jordan Wiley (Richland HS, Texas)
OF/LHP Andrew Baker (Ridge Community HS, Florida)
OF Langston Watkins (Louisville Male HS, Kentucky)
OF Andre Nnebe (St. Mary’s HS, California)
OF Wyatt Featherston (Green Mountain HS, Colorado)
OF Dominic Fletcher (Cypress HS, California)
OF Bailin Markridge (O’Connor HS, Arizona)
OF Dalton Griffin (South Effingham HS, Georgia)
OF Dominic Clementi (Arrowhead HS, Wisconsin)
OF EP Reese (North Davidson HS, North Carolina)
OF Connor Capel (Seven Lakes HS, Texas)
OF Spencer Taylor (Trinity Christian Academy, Florida)
OF/RHP Trevor Boone (Tulsa Memorial HS, Oklahoma)
OF Terence Norman (Kennesaw Mountain HS, Georgia)
OF Jose Layer (Colegio Angel David, Puerto Rico)
OF Jarrett Finger (Grandview HS, Colorado)
OF Ryan Mejia (Alonso HS, Florida)
OF Marcus Mack (Bellaire HS, Texas)
OF Gabe Simons (Ada HS, Oklahoma)
OF Robert Bullard (Thurgood Marshall HS, Texas)
OF Matthew Fraizer (Clovis North HS, California)
OF Caleb Green (Metter HS, Georgia)
OF/LHP Kyle Stowers (Christian HS, California)
OF Luke Lalumia (Grand Ledge HS, Michigan)
OF Raymond Hernandez (Fernando Ledesma Continuation, Puerto Rico)
OF Nick Neville (IMG Academy, Florida)
OF Raymond Salaman (Luis Hernaiz Verone HS, Puerto Rico)
OF Ryan Brown (St. James HS, Maryland)
OF Denilson Elligson (Graceville HS, Florida)
OF/RHP Brandon Fraley (Caravel Academy, Delaware)
OF Kingsley Ballao (Maui HS, Hawaii)
OF Dylan Hirsch (El Camino Real HS, California)
OF Hunter Judd (Knoxville Catholic HS, Tennessee)
OF Landon Silver (Huntington Beach HS, California)
OF Juan Carlos Abreu (Winter Springs HS, Florida)
OF Cameron Blake (Round Rock HS, Texas)
OF Jerrette Lee (Columbus HS, Georgia)
OF Brock Anderson (Sparkman HS, Alabama)
OF/3B Armani Smith (De La Salle HS, California)
OF Chase Murray (Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, Ohio)
OF Michael Wilson (Colonia HS, New Jersey)
OF Colin Brophy (Notre Dame HS, California)
OF Brad Demco (Lake Travis HS, Texas)
OF Jalen Harrison (St. Anne’s-Belfield HS, Virginia)
OF Keegan Snowbarger (St. Xavier HS, Kentucky)
OF Jeremy Ydens (St. Francis HS, California)
OF Nick Howie (Garth Webb SS, Ontario)
OF Clayton Keyes (Bishop Carroll HS, Alberta)
OF Dante Baldelli (Bishop Hendricken HS, Rhode Island)
OF Tremaine Spears (Tioga HS, Louisiana)
OF Aldrich De Jongh (Trinity Christian Academy, Florida)
OF Alvaro Valdez (Westminster Christian HS, Florida)
OF Ryan Novis (Corona Del Sol HS, Arizona)
OF Mason Nadeau (North Penn HS, Pennsylvania)
OF Jack Suwinski (Taft HS, Illinois)
OF Nikolas Dague (Sickles HS, Florida)
OF Joe Faulkner (Cumberland Gap HS, Tennessee)
OF Donnie Gleneski (Bishop Kenny HS, Florida)
OF Eric Rivera (Flanagan HS, Florida)
OF Jordan McFarland (Waterloo HS, Illinois)
OF Christian Moya (South Hills HS, California)
OF Tony Schultz (Saints Peter and Paul HS, Maryland)
OF Ben Lewis (Horizon HS, Arizona)


1 Comment

  1. […] Our first attempted angle focuses on the consensus top two high school outfielders in this class. There are some shades of the Austin Meadows/Clint Frazier dynamic from a few years back with Mickey Moniak and Blake Rutherford battling back and forth at the top this year (bonus points for close geographic proximity between the two prospects in each draft), but neither player fits the mold well enough to push the comp much further than that. Of course, as always, it turns out I’m plagiarizing myself here after writing this back in December… […]

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