The average draft placement of the first high school second base prospect off the board since I’ve been running this site has been pick 200. Forgive me for rounding up — it’s actually 199.5 — but Major League Baseball currently doesn’t allow teams to select a player only halfway. I’m not a big draft trend guy, but that seems worth noting. Even if we get rid of the outlier that was last year (Cobie Vance at 484), the average first pick only moves down to 152. LeVon Washington (30 in 2009) and Forrest Wall (35 in 2014), the only top fifty picks in the group, represent the lows and the highs that come with taking a prep second baseman early…and Wall, much as I like him, has a long way between where his and the big leagues.
While Washington and Wall may have been drafted high, neither has yet made it to the top level. We have to go back to 2008 to find the last drafted and signed high school positive value big league player with LJ Hoes (pick 81) and his career 0.1 rWAR. Then there’s Blake DeWitt (pick 28 in 2004), Travis Denker (pick 631 in 2003), Josh Barfield (pick 120 in 2001), and Nate McLouth (pick 749 in 2000), though McLouth’s one whole game in the Sally League at second base means he’s in on more of a technicality than anything else. Interesting to note that Hoes, DeWitt, and Barfield were the first overall prep second base prospect off the board. That will go down as some support for the idea that it’s a one and done position in terms of prospect depth.
So on one hand, history has been predictably unkind to high school second basemen. On the other hand, maybe this will be the year! The bar is awfully low after all. I’d argue that the best trio of prospects in any year since I’ve covered the draft was 2014’s first three 2B off the board: Forrest Wall, Shane Mardirosian, and Luke Dykstra. That’s very much propped up by Wall, the best second base prospect drafted since…DeWitt, I guess? Revisionist history would say Jose Vidro in 1992 and/or Ray Durham in 1990, sixth and fifth round picks respectively. It’s a minor cheat to include them because of how far they fell, but at least they were the first prep second basemen off the board in their draft years. I wouldn’t put any one of Carlos Cortes, Morgan McCullough, or Cole Stobbe on the same level of Wall in 2014, but on the whole it might be the best trio since I’ve started in 2009.
Some love Cortes’s hit tool. Others like it way less. That’s the unique brand of analysis you can only get here. Count me in as part of the group who strongly believes in Cortes as a hitter. I wanted to add more to back up that claim, but turns out I only would have plagiarized myself. Here’s most of what I wanted to say now from five months ago…
I know I can get a little weird with wanting to look back at previous years when I’m supposed to be talking about the draft to come, so, finally, we’re back to the present day. A comp that isn’t a comp that I can’t shake is Carlos Cortes as the next Forrest Wall. Stylistically, it doesn’t work: the two are very different athletes with different bodies and different levels of defensive aptitude. As hitters, however, I think they bring a lot of the same good stuff to the table. Wall went higher (35th) than all but one HS 2B (LeVon Washington in 2009) since I started the site. I think Cortes can top that in 2016. The other player frequently compared to Cortes is Kolten Wong. Wong went 22nd overall to the Cardinals in 2011. That might be his draft ceiling, but it’s a pretty darn nice one.
I’m not a scout, but I’ve seen enough of Cortes to feel comfortable with sharing my general observations about him with those who are. “Boy, that Cortes sure can hit,” I’d say with confidence. “I’m no scout (note: I say this a lot in these chats), but if that’s not a potential plus hit tool then I’m not sure I know what one is,” I’d continue. Picture this all said with supreme confidence. How can you watch a guy like Cortes and not come away loving his bat? The swing works, there’s tons of bat speed, he’s strong enough to punish mistakes (above-average raw power?), and I’m not sure I saw him take a bad plate appearance all summer. As somebody who is constantly preaching about the importance of having a plan of attack with every at bat, that last part really resonated with me. I was so ready for everybody to agree with me and bask in the glow of the “attaboys” I so richly deserved.
Well, it didn’t happen. To say that others like Cortes’ hit tool way less than I do (and I’m not special, by the way: lots of smarter internet folk than I love Cortes’ bat) is an understatement. That’s not a universal belief – few draft thoughts are, especially in December – but what I had figured to be one of the draft’s best singular tools is a bit more of a divisive topic than expected. So if you come here seeking the value of the majority, then think of Cortes as a wait-and-see early round pick. If you’re here for my own amateur opinion, then start printing those “Carlos Cortes: First Day MLB Draft Pick” memorabilia t-shirts now.
(This analysis lacks nuance as it only focuses on Cortes’ hit tool. One could like his hit tool a lot and still view him as a tough player to profile because of his unique defensive skill set. Some might see him as a future utility player who projects as a tweener without a true position. Others could view him as a wait-and-see prospect not because of his bat but because of the hope he can play behind the plate at the next level. He’s a tough guy to judge even before you factor in the varied opinions about his bat. Fun player to track and evaluate, though.)
In almost any other year (and in many other lists that don’t include Cortes with the second base prospects), Morgan McCullough would be a fine choice for the top spot. He can run, defend, and, most importantly, hit. If it all works he’s a regular at second for a long time, though all of the “there is no such thing as a teenage second base prospect” caveats apply. As much as I like McCullough – and I really do, honest – he strikes me as the kind of guy who falls below where he should go and winds up having to prove himself to pro guys all over again in college. I hope I’m wrong. Will Proctor and Cole Stobbe both might interest teams as potential shortstops at the highest level. Alexander Santos is one of the many New Jersey products in this year’s class with a shot to go in the top ten rounds and make an impact on pro ball. In what might be one of those draft quirks that only interests me, there is or will be a New Jersey prospect on each of these early HS lists except first base.
That covered a lot, but, wait, there’s more!
I worry a little about there being too much swing-and-miss in Stobbe’s game to fully take advantage of his offensive gifts against better competition, but at his best he’s been a guy who has gotten very intriguing Brian Dozier comps. Tyler Fitzgerald has gotten strong reviews for improvements he’s made as a hitter all spring. His defense hasn’t quite gotten the same love, but he’s got the athleticism and an average arm to potentially handle center field if a move out of the infield is necessary. He’ll be ranked highly enough in this space to make going pro a viable option if he’s picked where I think his talent warrants, but I do wonder how many rounds he could boost his draft stock if he decided to enroll at Louisville instead. I still like Alex Santos as an advanced bat who can hang up the middle defensively. I also like that Santos, like Fitzgerald, still has some room on his frame to pack on a few more good pounds and start moving more doubles over the wall for homers.
My tentative ranking here would go Cortes, McCullough, Stobbe, Fitzgerald, and Santos. Then Michael Feliz and Shane Martinez followed by the rest.
2B Alex Brewer (Forrest HS, Tennessee)
2B Ben Baird (Agoura HS, California)
2B Cody Oerther (The First Academy, Florida)
2B Morgan McCullough (West Seattle HS, Washington)
2B Nathan Blakeney (Wesleyan Christian Academy, North Carolina)
2B Parker McCoy (Walton HS, Georgia)
2B Ryan Reynolds (Ouachita Christian HS, Louisiana)
2B Tyler Malone (Woodcreek HS, California)
2B/3B Michael Feliz (IMG Academy, Florida)
2B/3B Riley King (Collins Hill HS, Texas)
2B/OF Austin Todd (Round Rock HS, Texas)
2B/OF Carlos Cortes (Oviedo HS, Florida)
2B/RHP Breonn Pooler (Sparkman HS, Alabama)
2B/SS Alex Santos (Don Bosco Prep, New Jersey)
2B/SS Austin Wilhite (Buford HS, Georgia)
2B/SS Brigham Mooney (Blue Springs South HS, Missouri)
2B/SS Cole Stobbe (Millard West HS, Nebraska)
2B/SS Jean Carlos Correa Oppenheimer (Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)
2B/SS Kobe Lopez (Archbishop Edward McCarthy HS, Florida)
2B/SS Logan Goodnight (Linsly HS, West Virginia)
2B/SS Paul Benitez (Lake Nona HS, Florida)
2B/SS Shane Martinez (John North HS, California)
2B/SS Tyler Fitzgerald (Rochester HS, Illinois)