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FAVORITES – Part IV

Lost about a month’s worth of work because I’m stupid and Microsoft Word apparently no longer autosaves. So I’m a bit bummed and behind where I want to be on 2018 draft coverage already. Plenty of time to catch up, so I guess that’s the positive to be gleaned in an otherwise annoying situation. Anyway, here are some FAVORITES…

Morehead State SR 2B/SS Braxton Morris

There Is No Such Thing As A Second Base Prospect, so don’t burn an early pick and instead spend some draft capital on a second base senior-sign and call it a day. Morris is a good looking young hitter who can really pick it. If he can clean up his approach even a little bit, he’d fine in nicely as a potential 2018 value pick.

Southern Illinois Edwardsville rSR 1B/OF Jared McCunn

High hopes for McCunn in 2017 didn’t quite pan out as expected, but another year of eligibility gives him another shot at making his mark on the college game.

Tennessee-Martin rSR OF Collin Edwards

Edwards didn’t hit in 2017 — not saying he struggled, he literally didn’t hit — so him going undrafted is hardly a surprise. We’ll run it back in 2018 and see how it goes.

Arizona SR OF Cal Stevenson

I’m a big fan of Stevenson’s game. That should go without saying since he’s sitting here on a list of FAVORITES, but I said it anyway. The Wildcat can hit, run, throw, and defend in center.

Arizona SR OF/2B Mitchell Morimoto

I’m still on the Morimoto bandwagon, though I’d be more into him as a prospect if he could hang in the infield (as some still think) than if he was instead confined to a life in the outfield.

Oregon JR RHP Matt Mercer

Athleticism and a really fast arm (up to 97 MPH) have made Mercer a FAVORITE. Surprisingly low strikeout numbers through two seasons as a Duck haven’t quite scared me off yet, but they are worth investigating further. A big draft season seems well within range. I certainly hope that’s the case because I hate having to figure out what to make of great stuff/iffy peripherals college pitchers.

Oregon State JR SS Cadyn Grenier

Everybody rightfully loves Nick Madrigal (see below), but, hey, Cadyn Grenier is really good too!

Oregon State JR SS/2B Nick Madrigal

Pedroia, Bregman, Altuve. Let those three comps — first two from Baseball America, last one from Aaron Fitt at D1Baseball — sink in for a bit. There’s no better pure hitter in college ball than Madrigal. Seeing how high his stock climbs as a likely primary second base prospect is going to be fascinating.

Oregon State JR OF Trevor Larnach

Owner of one of college ball’s prettiest swings, Larnach is a really well-rounded player with a chance for three average better or tools (hit, power, arm). He’ll be overshadowed some on a stacked Beavers squad, but he’s a solid outfield prospect in a class that could use some.

USC rJR RHP Bryce Dyrda

Dydra is an undersized righthander (strike one) with questionable control (strike two), but he has a solid sinking 88-94 MPH fastball (ball one?) and a deceptive delivery (ball two). He’s also coming off a sophomore season where he missed more than his fair share of bats. So that’s a full count, I guess. Now we wait for the payoff pitch…

Friday Nonsense

And now for something totally different. It’s summer, so I’ve kind of taken an “anything goes” approach to the site that should last for about another six weeks or so. The following is not for everyone, I bet, but it’s a) about baseball, and b) tangentially related to the draft. Back to regularly scheduled 2018 MLB Draft programming on Monday…

*****

A friend of mine asked me recently what I thought about Pat Neshek’s trade value. That led me to the realization that I have no idea what Neshek’s trade value is. I pride myself on answering questions when asked — even if it’s a simple “honestly, I don’t know but I’ll try to find out — so I got to work in trying to give a quality answer. A wise man once told me that the best way make sense of the unfamiliar is to find comps. That wise man was me. I told myself that. So here we are.

We started with all the relievers traded in the weeks leading up to the deadline over the past three years. Then we tried to find the ones who had statistical years closest to Neshek’s first half. Finally, we examined the return for each traded reliever and how it could be related back to present day prospect value. Simple enough, right?

In a fun twist, the reliever most similar to Neshek dealt in the last three years is none other than old friend Jonathan Papelbon. A comparison with Neshek on top and Papelbon on bottom…

9.17 K/9 – 1.27 BB/9 – 1.27 ERA – 2.27 FIP – 35.1 IP
9.08 K/9 – 1.82 BB/9 – 1.59 ERA – 3.01 FIP – 39.2 IP

Now obviously Papelbon had the sizable perceived edge as being a VETERAN CHAMPIONSHIP CLOSER, but he also came with the risk (or reward, I suppose) of another guaranteed year (after negotiating this part of the deal with Washington) at $11 million on the books. The return for Papelbon was impressive at the time and now looks like an absolute home run. Nick Pivetta is really good. Worth noting that the Phillies paid for Papelbon for that first half-season (minus the minimum) and left the Nats on the hook for the full season thereafter (which they predictably partially deferred…but that’s a whole other thing).

Other closers at the time dealt away with similar numbers to Neshek…

9.17 K/9 – 1.27 BB/9 – 1.27 ERA – 2.27 FIP – 35.1 IP
7.90 K/9 – 2.41 BB/9 – 2.85 ERA – 4.87 FIP – 41.0 IP
8.84 K/9 – 4.89 BB/9 – 2.79 ERA – 3.96 FIP – 38.2 IP
11.34 K/9 – 1.08 BB/9 – 2.70 ERA – 1.06 FIP – 33.1 IP

Here we have Neshek at the top followed by 2015 Joakim Soria, 2015 Tyler Clippard, and 2014 Joakim Soria. The return for 2015 Soria was JaCoby Jones. 2015 Clippard fetched Casey Meisner. 2014 Soria brought back Jake Thompson (!) and Corey Knebel. In a fun coincidence that may or may not actually be a coincidence, Baseball America’s midseason rankings had Jones as the Pirates 10th best prospect before being dealt. He was MLB.com’s 12th best prospect. Nick Pivetta was also ranked 10th (BA) and 12th (MLB). And the return for Zach Duke? Well, Charlie Tilson was ranked 10th (BA) and 12th (MLB). That’s weird, right?

It also brings us to Duke. He, along with Clippard (again!), were the two pitchers closest to Neshek dealt at last year’s deadline. The numbers going from Neshek to Duke to 2016 Clippard…

9.17 K/9 – 1.27 BB/9 – 1.27 ERA – 2.27 FIP – 35.1 IP
10.04 K/9 – 3.82 BB/9 – 2.63 ERA – 3.04 FIP – 37.2 IP
10.99 K/9 – 3.58 BB/9 – 4.30 ERA – 4.31 FIP – 37.2 IP

Duke is a really interesting comparison for Neshek, I think. Both pitchers were seen as specialists, but were dealt (or will be dealt in Neshek’s case) during a season they put up unexpectedly strong numbers against opposite-handed hitters. As mentioned earlier, the return was a guy ranked 10th (BA) and 12th (MLB) on the top major industry lists updated during the season. As for this version of Clippard, he returned MLB.com’s 14th ranked prospect from New York (Vicente Campos). Worth noting that both Duke and Clippard were not closing at the time of their respective trades — like Neshek, Duke has never closed, FWIW — and were owed monies ($5.5 million for Duke, $6.15 million for Clippard) for one season beyond the in-season move.

9.17 K/9 – 1.27 BB/9 – 1.27 ERA – 2.27 FIP – 35.1 IP
11.75 K/9 – 2.75 BB/9 – 1.00 ERA – 1.88 FIP – 36.0 IP
7.88 K/9 – 3.94 BB/9 – 4.50 ERA – 3.51 FIP – 32.0 IP

Top is Neshek (figure you’ve caught on by now, but just in case), middle is Mark Lowe, bottom is Steve Cishek. Lowe is another really interesting comparison for Neshek. Both were/are non-closers, pending free agents, and in the midst of stellar seasons judged by literally any measure. The return on Lowe: Jake Brentz, Nick Wells, and Rob Rasmussen. Cishek, who wasn’t closing at that point, had two years of team control left but wound up being non-tendered by the Cardinals anyway. There’s a chance he’s only included here because my subconscious mind wants the two similarly named relievers linked forever in such a momentous email. Whatever the reason for his inclusion may be, he’s neither a great nor horrible comp for Neshek. The return for him was Kyle Barraclough.

Conclusions from this are pretty straightforward. There’s something magical about players ranked both 10th (BA) and 12th (MLB), so if you can find a guy to hit on those exact spots on each list then he’s the one. If past schedules can be trusted, then those updates should be out next week. In the meantime, let’s look at the returns and how they ranked before the season they were dealt to try to figure out a realistic return. We have the following names to consider: Nick Pivetta, JaCoby Jones, Casey Meisner, Jake Thompson/Corey Knebel, Charlie Tilson, Vicente Campos, Jake Brentz/Nick Wells/Rob Rasmussen, and Kyle Barraclough.

Pivetta – 10th
Jones – 13th
Meisner – 21st
Thompson – 4th, Knebel – 6th
Tilson – 13th
Campos – 20th
Brentz – UR, Wells – 28th, Rasmussen – UR
Barraclough – UR

We can work with three methodologies here. First, a simple mean of all the prospects dealt. I averaged players dealt in the same package and considered anybody unranked to be the 31st best prospect in the system. That got us an average of just under 18th. This could be useful, especially if we’re trying to be conservative with our expected return. We could also look at the wider range of outcomes. Players were ranked as high as 4th and as low as “31st.” That’s probably too wide a range to be useful. However, if we toss out the unranked players — not that big a deal since Cishek wasn’t a great comparable in the first place, plus two of the other unranked guys were part of a larger package anyway — then that gives us a range from 4th to 21st. That makes sense as both a reasonable ceiling and floor. We could also focus on our three favorite comps for Neshek (Papelbon, Duke, and Lowe) to help narrow down the eventual search field. The Lowe trade was weird in that it was more about quantity than quality — though Brentz, unranked here, was one seen as a pretty big draft overslot draft prospect — so Pivetta (10th) and Tilson (13th) wind up as the most useful points of reference.

The four teams publicly connected to Neshek so far this season have been Boston, Kansas City, New York, and Washington. We’ll take a look at each team’s 10th to 13th best prospects as noted by Baseball America prior to the season. For reference’s sake, here’s what the Phillies list looked like…

OF Dylan Cozens
RHP Kevin Gowdy
RHP Nick Pivetta
2B Daniel Brito

Not bad, right? You’d happily take any of those guys for Neshek in a second. Thankfully, all of those guys are already here. Let’s see what else is out there. We’ll run through Boston, Kansas City, New York, and Washington in that order. I included notes from each player’s time as an amateur (if applicable) and then followed that up with present day thoughts on their current value.

Boston

1B Josh Okimey

1B Josh Ockimey (Neumann-Goretti HS, Pennsylvania): good athlete; power upside; interesting hit tool; slow; 6-4, 220 pounds

3B Michael Chavis

3B/2B Michael Chavis (Sprayberry HS, Georgia): good approach; above-average to plus defender; can’t throw it fast enough for him; very real right-handed power, at least above-average and plus for me; average speed; average or better arm; good athlete; bat speed is nuts; could be catcher convert; PG comp: Javier Baez; not perfect, but reminds me of Cavan Biggio last year; Callis comp: Jedd Gyorko; I can see maybe RHH Robin Ventura; have heard Blake DeWitt as warning; 5-10, 200 pounds

RHP Mike Shawaryn

Shawaryn’s big 2015 (10.71 K/9 and 1.71 ERA in 116.0 IP) set him up as a potential first round pick coming into the year, but a slight dip in production and stuff has many cooler on him now than before. He’s always been in that ten to fifteen range for him as a 2016 college arm, so the recent downtick in stuff isn’t something I’m too worked up about. At his best, he’s got enough fastball (87-94, 95 peak), a changeup with big upside, and a breaking ball that seemingly improves every time out (even as he’s had some rocky starts this year). Breaking down his individual pitches is obviously important, but the main selling point with Shawaryn was always going to be his above-average to plus command, standout control, and deceptive motion. Assuming his decline is more fatigue – he’s approaching almost 250 college innings in his career; for context’s sake, that’s about a hundred more than AJ Puk and over twice as many as Alec Hansen – than injury (though separating the two can be tricky without proper pre-draft medical screening), Shawaryn might be the perfect candidate for a team in round two (or three if they are lucky) willing to draft a potential mid-rotation starting pitcher with the intent not to pitch him competitively the summer after signing. Draft him, sign him, get him working with your top player development staffers, and focus more about 2017 rather than getting onto the field immediately. If it turns out he’s feeling good and looking good sooner rather than later, so be it. But he’s the type of smart young pitcher that could begin his first professional season at High-A without much concern. That’s the path I’d consider taking with him, but maybe I’m making more out of a few good rather than great starts than I really ought to.

RHP Travis Lakins

RHP Travis Lakins (353) is an athletic young arm with less miles on it as a draft-eligible sophomore than many of his peers. I view him as a really good potential reliever, but I can see why one would look at his athleticism, frame with some projection left, and fastball command and think otherwise.

Ockimey is a local guy (Neumann-Goretti) who has hit for three straight years including a strong showing this year in A+ as a 21-year-old. He’d be a more than fair return for Neshek in a vacuum, but, as a guy locked into first base, doesn’t make a ton of sense for the Phillies specific organizational needs. I’d still be pleased with the return, but could see why others might be less than thrilled.

The ideal target might just be Chavis. Of course, if he’s the guy you really want, then the odds of actually getting him decrease. That’s the first rule of making up trades on the internet. If it seems like you’re getting the obvious better end of the deal, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Chavis broke out in a major way at High-A and has since held his own in AA the past few weeks. He’d instantly be the best third base prospect in the system and become an immediate — assuming you’re cool bending the definition of “immediate” to “within a year” — threat to Maikel Franco’s job. He’d be a perfect piece for the rebuild.

Shawaryn and Lakins are both college arms who feel a little overrated on this list. Shawaryn reminds me a lot of a righthanded version of Cole Irvin: strong collegiate track record, fifth round picks in last year’s draft, better than the High-A competition but still has plenty to prove in AA. Like Irvin, Shawaryn has fifth starter upside with a decent fallback of middle relief. I’d be underwhelmed if he was coming back for Neshek. Lakins has a little more upside if everything breaks just right, but a far riskier overall profile. I tend to think he’s a middle reliever in the long fun, so I’d pass on him for Neshek. He was really good in High-A, but has experienced the equal and opposite result so far in AA.

Kansas City

RHP Kyle Zimmer

3. San Francisco JR RHP Kyle Zimmer: 91-94 FB, 95-97 peak but can get it up to 99 when amped up; some of the best FB command of any amateur you’ll ever see; there is some talk of inconsistency with his fastball, but I’m not taking that bait: looking at start-by-start velocity shows that he most commonly sat 93-96, even late in games; he was down to the upper-80s in one start (92 peak), but rebounded to show 92-93 (95 peak) the next Friday; inconsistent but really good 81-86 SL with cutter action that could become plus pitch in time; 76-81 kCB that flashes above-average to plus, presently his strongest secondary offering; raw 78-86 CU that he used more frequently with each game, both picking and hitting his spots better as the year progressed – he often used the change early in counts to set hitters up as he is unafraid to pitch backwards when necessary; one nitpick: command of breaking stuff comes and goes; relatively new to pitching, so he has the benefits (and potential injury downside) of a fresh (or unready) arm – I can understand those who are worried that he has done too much too soon on the mound developmentally, but believe that with proper care in pro ball he’ll be fine; outstanding athlete with the chance for three (or four) plus pitches, an arm with limited mileage, and pinpoint fastball command all sounds like a potential first overall pick and frontline MLB starting pitcher; 6-4, 220 pounds

OF Seuly Matias

OF Khalil Lee

If you’re going to go safe with the first pick, then it only makes sense to swing for the fences with the next one. Highly athletic two-way prep star Khalil Lee (170) certainly qualifies as a big cut from the heels that could either result in a majestic home run or the cooling breeze of a major whiff and miss. Of course, that presupposes that boom/bust prospects result in all-or-nothing players; a swing for the fence can just as easily result in a double high off the wall or a sac fly. Prospect evaluation can mean many things to many people, but one thing it ain’t (or shouldn’t be) is an exercise in projecting binary outcomes. Anyway, Lee’s upside is considerable and the arrow on his likelihood of getting there is pointing up after a tremendous pro debut that saw him turn tools to skills quicker than just about anybody outside of the Kansas City front office could have anticipated.

Lee has the physical ability to be a star if he can remain in center feel as expected. He’d still have above-average regular upside in a corner — we know he has more than enough arm for right field — but the thought of him maintaining enough quickness and flexibility as he fills out to stick up the middle is particularly exciting. Offensively, Lee has the bat speed, swing plane, and muscle to hit for real power, average speed to do a little damage on the bases, and the keen understanding of the strike zone one might expect from a legitimate pitching prospect. There’s a lot to like when the overall package is taken into account.

SS Nicky Lopez

From that point on, Lopez grew on me a little bit with every passing day. Guys who hit .306/.417/.444 with twice as many walks (26) as strikeouts (13) in their draft year tend to do that. Beyond the obvious awesome plate discipline indicators, what I liked about Lopez is the steady increase in functional power (.038 ISO in 2014, .089 ISO in 2015, .138 ISO in 2016) and continued strong base running (83.3% career success rate). Those kind of secondary offensive skills and his longstanding quality defense at short — above-average range, plus arm, soft hands — elevate Lopez’s ceiling to a potential regular at short. If that’s too rich for you, then Lopez’s hot start should at least up the odds of him reaching his existing upside as a high-level utility guy.

Zimmer is one of my all-time favorite draft prospects, so you think I’d be into taking a chance on him for Neshek. Unfortunately, his career has been completely derailed due to injury. Hopefully he can come out the other side a productive big league contributor, but I’d let another team take that gamble. International guys are always a weak spot for me, so I’m hardly an expert on Matias…but everything I now know about him I like. His profile reminds me a little bit of the Royals version of Jhailyn Ortiz. Big July 2 bonus, monster power, deceptively fast, lots of swing and miss, solid walk rate…I’m in. The fact that he’s a bit further away from the big leagues is actually a plus in that Rule 5 roster concerns can be pushed back a few extra years.

Same logic would apply for Lee, who is killing it in full-season ball at just a few months older than Matias. He’s striking out a ton, but everything else in both his scouting and statistical profile looks great. Either him or Matias would be a coup for Neshek. Lopez wouldn’t be quite the same home run, but it’s hard to dislike a player who has hit at every stop in his pro career AND has skyrocketed to AA just thirteen months after being drafted. His ceiling and his floor run into each other a bit — reminds me of the house they built in “Hurricane Neddy” — but getting a young, cheap future utility player for Neshek wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

New York

OF Dustin Fowler

78. OF Dustin Fowler (West Laurens HS, Georgia): average speed; average arm; pretty swing; upside with bat; 6-1, 170 pounds

RHP Domingo Acevedo

3B Miguel Andujar

LHP Jordan Montgomery

The first and last players listed above are pretty much non-starters, but for totally different reasons. What can you say about poor Dustin Fowler? A ruptured patella tendon is no joke. Hope he makes it back. On a more positive note (for New York), Jordan Montgomery is too big a part of both the Yankees present and future for them to even consider moving him for a middle reliever like Neshek. Bummer. The one silver lining in eliminating two names off the bat is that it gives us more space to gush about Domingo Acevedo. Simply put, Acevedo is really, really exciting and the prospect of getting an arm like his, slim as it may be, for PAT NESHEK astounds me. The big righthander is another international guy I didn’t know a ton about before doing some digging, but he sounds awesome. Cashman apparently calls him “Little Pineda.” I’m not trying to make it out that Acevedo is under the radar — he pitched in the Futures Game, so he’s a pretty big deal — but I’m still a bit surprised how a Yankee who has a plus fastball — he once hit 103 MPH! — with an above-average changeup and emerging slider packed into a 6-7, 250 pound frame isn’t getting way more hype than he is. This is a potential dream return.

Finally, there’s Andujar. His profile reminds me a little bit of the America’s Choice prospect version of Maikel Franco. Feels like a fair return to me — sometimes those knockoff cereals are even better than the name brand stuff — with the added bonus of playing a position of need within the organization. Maybe the Yankees look to sell high on him now that he’s off to a blazing MLB start (380 wRC+) through a whopping five plate appearances. I’d be pretty happy with Andujar for Neshek if I didn’t have my hopes up already that Acevedo could be had.

Washington

RHP Austin Voth

Washington JR RHP Austin Voth: 89-93 FB, 94 peak with plus command; good mid-70s CB; Cape 2012: 89-91 FB, 93 peak; 77-79 CB; plus 82-84 SL; solid 81 CU; FB can get too straight and command wavers; 6-1, 190 pounds (2011: 7.27 K/9 | 69.1 IP) (2012: 8.55 K/9 | 2.81 BB/9 | 3.86 FIP | 67.1 IP) (2013: 8.72 K/9 | 3.08 BB/9 | 3.74 FIP | 105.1 IP)

OF Rafael Bautista

3B Drew Ward

3B/1B Drew Ward (Leedy HS, Oklahoma): very strong; good athlete; untapped upside; intriguing natural talent with bat; big raw power; impressive pitch tracking and recognition; really like his approach; could be a catcher long term; strong arm, but mechanics out of whack; PG comp Jim Thome; profile reminds me some of Phil Nevin; 6-4, 200 pounds

RHP AJ Cole

The popular industry comp of Porcello works in a lot of ways, but I much prefer sizing the young Florida righthander up with Porcello’s Detroit teammate, Justin Verlander. Verlander represents Cole’s ultimate upside as a big leaguer, but it’s interesting to compare the two pitchers at similar points in their development. Despite possessing a 93 MPH peak velocity fastball, Verlander wasn’t even drafted coming out of Goochland HS (VA). Scouts questioned his shaky control and inconsistent mechanics while also citing concerns over how his 6-4, 170 pound high school frame would hold up as a professional. He embarked on an intense workout program upon enrolling at Old Dominion that helped move him closer to the finished product that we see today. Cole offers a similar velocity floor (low-90s) when compared to the high school version of Verlander, but has the edge when it comes to prep peak velocity as he has been clocked as high as 96-98 MPH at various stages in the past year. So, Cole has a better fastball at this point in his development, plus more consistent breaking stuff and a more advanced overall feel for pitching. If, and it is admittedly a pretty sizable if, Cole’s 6-5, 190 pound frame fills out like Verlander’s similarly projectable high school frame did, then you could eventually be talking about two very similar pitching prospects come draft time. With a little more muscle packed on, Cole’s fastball has the potential to be one of the signature pitches in all of baseball much in the same way Verlander’s heater has emerged as a special offering.

Voth is fine enough, but too dull for me as another fifth starter/middle relief type. The system has too many of those guys as is at the moment. Bautista is a fascinating prospect in that he’s got some of the very best speed in all of the minor leagues…and some of the tiniest power around. He hasn’t had an above-average year at the plate since 2014, so a speed/defense fifth outfielder seems like the most realistic outcome. Ward would be a realistic return for Neshek. I wouldn’t necessarily jump for joy, but it’s a logical enough fit — capable defender at third base, track record of hitting (until AA), strong draft pedigree — that it would be hard to hate.

Like Kyle Zimmer above, Cole will go down as one of my all-time favorite draft prospects. I mean, I may or may not have compared his ceiling to Justin Verlander at one point. Fine, I did. And I even quoted my past self to prove it. Anyway, he’d be a bit of an awkward fit here as a 25-year-old up-and-down arm with only about fifty big league innings under his belt, but if the scouting and player development staff came together claiming they saw something correctable about his mechanics that would help unlock his full upside (a theory I’ve heard about why they really pushed for Mark Appel in the Giles deal) then I’d trust them to give it a shot. I mean, maybe I shouldn’t because of the Appel thing, but if I hired them then I should listen to them and trust them to do their jobs, right?

If I had to rank all the potential returns, it would look like this…

1 – RHP Domingo Acevedo
2 – OF Seuly Matias
3 – 3B Michael Chavis
4 – OF Khalil Lee
5 – 3B Miguel Andujar
6 – 1B Josh Ockimey
7 – SS Nicky Lopez
8 – 3B Drew Ward
9 – RHP Mike Shawaryn
10 – RHP AJ Cole
11 – RHP Kyle Zimmer –
12 – RHP Travis Lakins
13 – RHP Austin Voth
14 – OF Rafael Bautista

The Acevedo, Matias, Chavis tier is a clear cut above the rest. Any order of those three can easily be defended since all are really good. I’d build a statue of Matt Klentak if he can pull something like that off. It would be small and I’d probably use aluminum foil, but it would still count. The hitters from Lee through Ward would probably make up the second tier. No statue for that, but I’d still be pleased. I think that tier represents the fairest value for Neshek, especially if you take Lee out of the equation. The rest would be tier three. Those would be last resort type deals for me. I’d be fine holding out until the very last minute of the deadline for something better even if it meant risking losing the deal and getting nothing for Neshek back. Not getting any of those guys would be worth the risk of potentially getting something better.

Quick disclaimer: nothing about the above was particularly scientific. The player pool from which the Phillies should be negotiating is much, much larger than my artificial sample. The odds are great that the player(s) the Phillies wind up getting for Neshek won’t actually be from among the sixteen (fourteen, really) listed above. I just wanted to bring a little order to the chaotic world of pretend GM trade nonsense that is the perfect mix of fun and pointless. It’s pretty much the non-porn reason why the internet exists.

FAVORITES – Part III

Intro and part one here, part two here, and part three…now!

Liberty JR OF DJ Artis

I’m so excited to finally get the Artis hype train rolling I can barely contain myself. He’s not even a FAVORITE in my notes: he’s a “FAVORITE FAVORITE FAVORITE.” Players with OBPs above .500 in back-to-back college seasons tend to get that kind of treatment. Take a moment with me and stare at his career numbers in amazement: .365/.515/.504 with 114 BB/58 K and 46/55 SB. You’ll probably hear the phrase “teams that value analytics will love him” repeated a few dozens times here on the World Wide Web between now and June. It’s true, but acting like he’s a statistical darling drastically undersells the tools. What Artis lacks in size and strength, he makes up for in plus athleticism, above-average to plus speed (added perk: it plays up due to superior base running instincts), a strong arm, and more than enough range to handle center. True, his lack of present and likely future power limits his overall ceiling. He did, however, up his ISO from .095 as a freshman to .193 as a sophomore with a .060 ISO hitting with wood on the Cape in between. In an abbreviated stint with Chatham this summer, he went without an extra base hit in 33 plate appearances. The power Even if Artis is a four-tool player, he’s valuable.

Donnie Dewees was the first name that came to mind as a potential draft comp. It’s not perfect and pretty far off stylistically, but a similar draft year rise (Dewees was a second round pick in 2015) doesn’t seem impossible to me

Hawaii SR 1B Eric Ramirez

When your scouting strength is the high praise you receive for your hit tool, you really need to find a way to hit better than .256 through three college seasons. Ramirez will look to up that number with a big senior season in 2018. The fact that he’s doubled his ISO every season is a bright spot, though that’s admittedly a job made a lot less tough when you start off with a .032 mark. Still, progress is progress. I’ve long liked Ramirez because I think he’ll hit. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. So far, he hasn’t hit a whole lot. We’ll see if he hits enough next year to get noticed as a viable senior-sign.

College of Charleston SR 3B Luke Morgan

I liked Morgan as a 2017 draft sleeper going into the year due to an advanced approach at the plate and average or better defensive tools at the hot corner. I was wrong. Still have hope for 2018, of course.

Towson JR SS/2B Richard Palacios

Though his arm may push him to second, I’m still all-in on Palacios as one of the upcoming college class’s most interesting middle infield prospects. He’s a true burner on the bases with more pop than his slender frame might suggest. Like Artis, he’ll almost certainly wind up getting talked about way more here than anywhere else on the internet between now and June before eventually getting ranked way higher than anywhere else on the internet once it gets time to put together the final big board. These are the guys why the FAVORITE tag exists in the first place.

Rice JR SS Ford Proctor 

Proctor is another player who might wind up being too good to be considered a true FAVORITE; in fact, him winding up as the top college shortstop on a few boards (including here potentially) wouldn’t be much of a shock at all. He’s a rock solid defender with a very high likelihood of sticking at short. His above-average raw power is the icing on the cake.

Rice SR OF Ryan Chandler 

Nothing immediately jumps out about Chandler’s game, but he does everything pretty well and there’s value in that kind of solid across the board skill set. He’s one of my favorite later round senior-signs that should give you a floor of quality organizational player and the upside of a potential backup outfielder.

Dartmouth SR OF/2B Kyle Holbrook

I see a disproportionate amount of Ivy League baseball, so it’s no shock that I have a FAVORITE or two from the conference each season. Holbrook takes really good bats every single time I see him, and the numbers back it up. His long-term defensive outlook will be what gets him a look in pro ball or not. As a corner outfielder only, it’ll be a tough road ahead. If teams see him as a potential super-sub who can play a little second and third in addition to the corners, then he’s got a chance. I know there are some that think he can hack it behind the plate again, so that’s another option going forward.

Dallas Baptist JR OF Jameson Hannah

Hannah is an ascending talent who seems to add something positive to his game from one outing to the next. He’s also one of this year’s example of a classic “better approach than he’s shown” type. I’ve gotten raves from those who have seen him up close about a major breakout coming…and that’s off the heels of a pretty damn good (.328/.411/.530 with 34 BB/45 K and 9/10 SB) sophomore season. A year similar to that with a flip in his BB/K ratio could get him first day consideration.

Wichita State JR 1B/3B Alec Bohm

Righthanded power is always in demand, so I expect Bohm, plus raw power being central to his game, to wind up a premium draft prospect come June. If we were to distill what makes a FAVORITE a favorite, I think it might come down to three things for positoin players: 1) one clear plus carrying tool, 2) above-average athleticism for the position, 3) advanced command of the strike zone. Bohm has the power, athleticism, and plate discipline to easily qualify.

Bryant SR C Mickey Gasper 

This has probably been my favorite group of FAVORITES so far. Artis, Palacios, Proctor, Bohm…and now Gasper. The man hit .421/.532/.726 with 39 BB/25 K last summer in the Futures League. He’s currently hitting .338/.475/.568 with 20 BB/19 K in 99 PA on the Cape. He hit .342/.470/.528 with 42 BB/18 K as a junior at Bryant. What more can he do to earn your love, ML scouting directors? I get that he’s a bit of a defensive question mark due to early career injuries and subsequent inexperience behind the plate, but there has to be a point in the draft where the downside of him being switched to first base — something I haven’t heard anybody actually suggest, FWIW — is worth the gamble on the bat potentially playing there. For me, he’s a switch-hitting catcher with outstanding knowledge of balls and strikes, emerging power, and all the physical ability and desire to eventually be a defensive asset behind the plate.

2018 FAVORITES – Part II

See yesterday’s post for an explanation of what we’re doing here. Now let’s get on with it…

Maryland JR 2B/OF Nick Dunn

I got legitimately excited about Dunn after his big freshman season. A quick comparison…

A – .300 BA – .092 ISO – 25 BB/25 K
B – .348 BA – .116 ISO – 34 BB/20 K
C – .261 BA – .123 ISO – 28 BB/23 K

A was Dunn’s true freshman season, B was Brandon Lowe’s redshirt-freshman season. Lowe took a leap in his first draft-eligible season, so maybe Dunn does the same in 2018. That’s where I was planning on ending the comparison, but I threw C (Dunn’s sophomore year) in one I realized it stacked up better than I first imagined. Obviously there’s a gulf between Lowe’s average and what Dunn has done, but that difference could be made up in a hurry

My only concern with Dunn is how his defense and athleticism continue to develop. “Average on his best days” was the description I got on him at the start of this past season. Then again, many weren’t as keen on Lowe’s glovework back in the day as they are now. Maybe Dunn can work himself to average and become the interesting top three round prospect Lowe became.

Michigan rSR RHP/OF Jackson Lamb

Sometimes I wonder why I do this at all. Lamb going undrafted and unsigned makes me question if I know what I’m talking about at all. There’s nothing about his profile not to like, at least from the outside looking in. Quality sinking fastball that reach the mid-90s, above-average splitter, and rapidly improving mid-80s cut-slider. That repertoire combined with his athleticism adds up to a really interesting relief prospect for me. Maybe his medicals are a mess. That’s the only reason I could possibly come up with for him not yet getting his shot in pro ball.

Rutgers JR OF Jawuan Harris

On one hand, it feels possible, nay likely, that Harris will wind up too good to be called a FAVORITE by next June. His upside is very real. On the other hand, like many players who flash extreme athleticism and five-tool upside, there’s still a sizable gap between what he is and what he’ll eventually be. Bridging that divide is easier said than done. I think Harris does just that; more accurately, I think his strong sophomore season already started the process. Tools + skills = deserved early round buzz.

Oklahoma JR OF Steele Walker

Plenty as been written about Walker during his busy summer, so I’ll be brief: he’s really good. All of those things people write about hitters that can be filed under “stuff you can’t teach,” Walker has. The rest of his game brings more questions — namely his true power upside and ability to remain in center despite average at best speed — but an appreciation for his advanced hit tool is more than enough to make him a FAVORITE for now.

Oklahoma JR 3B Brylie Ware

You can put Ware in the same category as Kyle Datres from yesterday’s post as players with a shot to be 2018’s version of Will Toffey. Toffey went from round 25 to round 4 from his sophomore to junior season. I’m not sure Datres or Ware winds up going that high, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fine prospects in their own right.

Oklahoma SR 2B/3B Jack Flansburg

What can I say? I like scrappy middle infielders who work deep counts and agitate opposing pitchers. I’m not perfect.

TCU JR RHP/1B Luken Baker 

Baker is too good to be a FAVORITE, but the love affair with the two-way star goes back long enough that we can let it slide. From May 2015…

Baker is typically listed as a primary righthanded pitcher who moonlights as a hitter, but I prefer him as the hulking slugger with plus to plus-plus raw power that whatever maker created his 6-4, 250 pound frame was hoping he’d turn out to be. I don’t know if he’s fleet of foot enough to handle even faking it as an outfielder over the long haul, but he’s a reasonably good athlete with the kind of plus arm strength you’d expect out of player ranked by most as a potential first-day pitcher.

Baker went on to finish 61st on my draft ranking that year. Interestingly enough, that ranking includes the scouting notes that mentions Baseball America comping him to Mark Trumbo. First, that’s a tremendous comparison. Second, they’ve since compared him to CJ Cron. I like when guys see their comps evolve over time. I know it could very well be different individuals making different comparisons — BA is not a monolith, after all — but I prefer to believe the HS version of Baker and the college version of Baker aren’t quite the same player. Anyway, Baker is really good. I really want to be bold and say I like him more than Seth Beer, but…I don’t. It’s close, though! So at least there’s that. Also, most people I talked to seem to like him better as a pitching prospect than as a hitter. When I say “people I talked to” I want to make it clear that it was, like, two people. There’s still so much time to figure out his long-term position, and only two people responded strongly in either direction of the many that I asked. Most gave some fancy version of “RELAX, we’ll see.” It’s also worth keeping in mind that last year at this time damn near everybody had Brendan McKay as a stone cold mortal lock to be drafted as a pitcher and pitcher only this past June. RELAX, we’ll see.

TCU JR OF Joshua Watson

I love a big freshman season. That’s exactly what Watson delivered in 2016. I also love a good comp. A coach — again, regrettably, I can’t find the source — once compared Watson to Nick Swisher. That’s more than enough to be a FAVORITE. Unfortunately, Watson’s sophomore season was nowhere near as impressive as his freshman campaign. Though it shouldn’t be held against him, it’s also interesting to note that the two other players linked to Swisher here over the years — Jared King and Alex Call — haven’t exactly set pro ball on fire to date. King is already out of organized ball while Call, a big favorite still, has battled injuries throughout this down sophomore season.

St. John’s SR OF/RHP Jamie Galazin

Galazin isn’t quite on the same level athletically as Jawuan Harris (see above), but he’s not all that far off. One source said that Galazin was the guy that many in draft media were hyping Donovan Casey up to be. Thought that was an interesting (and potentially prescient) comment.

Liberty SR C Matt Allen

One of the dangers of FAVORITES is that sometimes I’ll hear something totally off the record about a player and decide right then and there that they are going on the FAVORITES list. That in and of itself isn’t an issue, but it then creates silly scouting notes like the one for Allen that doesn’t list anything specific about his game except for the fact that he is a FAVORITE. Why do I like him so much? In some cases, I remember but I can’t say. In most cases, however, I forget. I’m only 31-years-old, but it’s an OLD 31-years-old. My memory ain’t what it used to be. I’ll hear about a player, remember the name, remember to tag him once I get back to my computer, and forget the rest. In my defense, it’s often many players being discussed so I’m juggling a fair amount of information in my head at a time…but still. I did the same thing with Nick Maton this year. I really like that guy. Heard some really excellent things about him from people who see a bit more Lincoln Land JC baseball than I do. But then I forget the specifics. Or maybe in this case I have them jotted down somewhere but didn’t want to blow up the spot publicly of my INSIDE SOURCE WITH THE PHILLIES because obviously what I write on this WordPress blog gets read by every front office in the hours before the draft kicks off.

Anyway, Allen was a favorite going back to his junior college days. Why? I can’t recall. Perhaps I have some notes on a scrap of paper somewhere I can fill in the blanks with. Until then he’ll remain a mysterious FAVORITE despite hitting a whopping .220/.340/.250 in his first season at Liberty. If he puts it all together in 2018, then the magic of the FAVORITE should never be doubted again.

I capped these to ten per day, something that is very clearly a mistake in hindsight. I’d love to break my own rule and add an eleventh guy because I’m really, really excited about him…but I won’t. We’ll let the suspense build until tomorrow.

2018 FAVORITES

When the summer goal is to write every single day from now until I completely run out of ideas of things to ramble on about, then the key is finding hooks that I can turn into relatively quick and easy posts that don’t take me a ton of time to research but still (hopefully) provide some semblance of useful information. To that end, I searched my “2018 College Follow List” Word document to find every mention of the word FAVORITE. Then I knocked out the 2017 seniors (we’ll get to them soon enough) and the 2019 freshman (sophomores now), leaving us with only draft-eligible prospects for 2018.

If you’re a regular reader, you might know about my FAVORITES. If not, a super quick primer. FAVORITES are favorites for life. Once you get the designation, it’s yours to keep no matter what. This can lead to some ranking oddities as some players labeled as FAVORITES may have gotten tagged as such three or four years ago and have since fallen out of favor, but it’s how we do things around here. I’d say about 90% of the FAVORITES you’ll read about here were deemed favorites either in high school or college freshmen. So while being a FAVORITE is undeniably a good thing, it’s far from everything. Furthermore, I do my best to stay away from obviously awesome prospects as FAVORITES. It doesn’t do anybody much good for me to share with the world that, say, Brady Singer is a FAVORITE. The only times a star-caliber player like that will get called a FAVORITE around here is either when a) he got the tag before he blew up as a prospect, or b) the player is just so good that I can’t resist putting the stamp on him.

So here are some FAVORITES listed in alphabetical order by conference — we made it from the ACC to halfway through the Big 10 so far — with a quick note on why I like(d) them and what to expect going forward.

Duke JR OF Jimmy Herron

Herron can change a game with his speed (career 41/52 SB), so right off the bat you’re seeing what makes him an appealing high-floor outfield prospect. Emerging power, plus arm strength, and a discerning eye at the plate (career 58 BB/57 K) give him a pretty substantial ceiling as an everyday player. He was an easy call to make a FAVORITE — though, in fairness, he’s a local guy who I saw a few times in high school, so, you know, maybe I’m BIASED — who I think will have a monster season in a stacked Blue Devils outfield.

North Carolina rSO RHP Josh Hiatt

An odd personal player evaluation blind spot — blind only in that I love these guys for reasons unknown — has always been relief pitchers without the kind of knockout stuff — often code for lacking premium velocity — to profile as closers at the professional level. I think that’s likely the charge that will be levied against Josh Hiatt. Hiatt won’t blow anybody away with his fastball — I have him at topping out at 92 MPH in 2017 — but his split-changeup is already a plus offering and his slider has a chance to get there in time. I see guys like Hiatt and wonder why they can’t close, but am more than fine with many big league teams still being stuck on archaic ideas on what a closer should be and allowing them to wind up being used in more high-leverage situations seemingly by accident.

North Carolina JR 3B Kyle Datres 

It’s not a direct one-to-one comparison, but Datres’s situation at North Carolina reminds me a little bit where Will Toffey was last year at this time. Toffey had a much worse sophomore season before rebounding with a strong enough junior season to get drafted and signed in the fourth round last month. A similar rise for Datres, a fantastic athlete skilled enough to play almost any spot on the diamond with a shot to get straight fives offensively (hit, power, speed), doesn’t seem out of place. Not for nothing, but the MLB Draft Tracker has Datres listed as a RHP. My notes on him on the mound: 88-92 FB, quality breaking ball, great athlete. MLB.com did some weird stuff with player designations this year — and had some real objective factual errors, which blew my mind — so maybe it’s nothing, but perhaps it’s a clue into the kind of feedback they got from teams on where Datres might have been listed if drafted. Probably just a goof, though.

Notre Dame SR OF/RHP Jake Shepski 

Being a FAVORITE means being a FAVORITE through the good and the bad. After a dismal 2017 season by any measure, Shepski is currently very much on the bad side of the ledger. The good news is he has another year to change the hearts and minds of big league decision-makers. What made him a favorite in the first place — patient approach, consistent hard contact, nice combination of pop, speed, and arm strength — could get him back on the prospect map before it’s too late.

Wake Forest JR RHP Griffin Roberts 

Roberts, a draft-eligible sophomore in 2017 like Datres, proved too tough a sign to get drafted early enough to afford. I wrote that and now I’ve reread it…and even I’m not sure if it makes sense. I think it does, but, man, the MLB Draft is weird. Full of paradoxes like that. Anyway, Roberts appears poised for a big 2018 season at Wake Forest. I love a good sinker/slider reliever, and Roberts takes that archetype to the best possible extreme. Another year of working on the little things and getting his control in check could send him flying up draft boards. I’m all-in on Roberts as a premium college arm in next year’s class.

Wake Forest rJR SS/2B Bruce Steel

I was on an island in liking Steel as much as I did in 2017. I’m not sure that changes in 2018, but it should. Steel is a really good prospect with the natural gifts to stay in the infield and hit for enough power to profile as a possible regular. I think questions about his approach (still developing), health (missed the 2016 season), signability (two years remaining) and home park inflating his numbers (sure) kept him from getting his shot in 2017, but he’ll make for a really interesting option in 2018.

Binghamton SR OF/2B CJ Krowiak

With the exception of Josh Hiatt, every player profiled so far was eligible for the 2017 MLB Draft but passed over or left unsigned. I’m not sure what that means about my ability to pick FAVORITES. Anyway, Krowiak is really good! He’s a glider in center with legitimate plus speed and athleticism, and his three year track record of hitting is tough to ignore. He’s instantly one of my favorite 2018 senior-signs.

UMBC JR 3B AJ Wright

Wright is a tough one for me at this point. I really, really like him. That much should be clear by his mere presence on this list. He’s a really impressive natural hitter with a keen understanding of the strike zone. That’s enough for me to fall for a guy initially. All of the other stuff — in-game power development, defensive consistency, finding a way to dominate the competition rather than just get by — remains up in the air. I think a breakout is coming, but I’m a little less sold than I was last year at this time.

South Carolina-Upstate SR OF JJ Shimko

It wound up being a one player reprieve from players eligible but unsigned in 2017. Shimko, like Krowiak, leaps to the list of best 2018 senior-signs. I’m stunned a player with his skill set — his speed and defense in center are good enough to provide plenty of value in pro ball tomorrow, and the offensive upside is gravy — was passed over.

Maryland JR OF Marty Costes

I thought the Astros had a decent shot to get Costes signed as an overslot 25th round pick, but it wasn’t meant to be. That’s great news for the Terrapins, a team getting back a fantastic athlete with a rapidly improving approach at the plate and plenty of power. I’ve long loved the Ron Gant comp a coach (regrettably, I lost the source of said quote) bestowed on him once upon a time. A comparison to Gant, one of my dad’s all-time favorite players, is as good as gold for me even if it’s not to be taken literally. The body type, athleticism, and chance to be a slightly above-average big league regular if everything breaks just so all add up to make him similar enough to Gant that I’ll buy it.

 

2017 MLB Draft Thoughts

A few stray thoughts on the top of last month’s MLB Draft before we get too far away for them to matter anymore…

1 – Hunter Greene is an outstanding prospect. I did not write about him nearly enough this past calendar year. Everybody knows about the heat. Breaking ball can be special. Enough of a changeup to work with. And his athleticism is quite literally second to none among high school pitchers in recent memory. He’s as close to the ideal teenage ball of clay imaginable. I’m a huge Royce Lewis fan and think the Twins will be quite happy with what they are getting with him (plus bat over arm fits my personal first round scouting ethos), but I can’t help but think they wind up regretting passing on the draft’s best talent sooner rather than later. Maybe regret is too strong a word since, again, Lewis is really good in his right. What’s a slightly softer word than regret that would work here? Whatever it is, sub that in instead.

2 – As much as I like Greene, it does feel a little funny that he couldn’t climb the 1-1 mountain and stake his claim as the first ever high school righthander to go first overall in the draft. It’s clearly not a knock on Greene as it is obviously out of his control past a certain point, but I wonder if the 1-1 HS RHP thing gets in teams heads a bit and gives them cold feet before making their selection. If Greene couldn’t do it in this class, then is it ever going to happen? Could say the same about Riley Pint, a slightly lesser prospect but in arguably a slightly lesser draft class, last year. The Kumar Rocker debates over the next eleven months could render this paragraph obsolete before too long. Or maybe the Ethan Hankins debates. Or maybe the Rocker/Hankins debates. Or maybe the Rocker/Hankins/guy we’re not yet ready to throw into the 1-1 mix who emerges in a big way these next few months and into the spring debates. That’s not very catchy, though.

3 – My quick scouting notes on Greene focused as much, if not more, on his abilities as a position player. That happened for two reasons. First, the notes are just that: notes. I don’t publish everything — I try, but sometimes time or obligations elsewhere get in the way — so the notes are pretty much the bare minimum information needed to get an idea of what a player is like in as short a blurb as possible. I kind of figured that everybody with even a passing interest in the draft knows who the top guys are, so I wind up updating the note sections of those players less and less as the spring drags on. That’s the boring logistical reason. The fun reason is that I genuinely think Greene had a case for being drafted as a shortstop (third baseman, really) rather than as a pitcher. I’m not sure I would have had the guts to do it if my job was on the line…but I sure as heck would have considered it beyond what I believe most others did. In time, I think Greene could have grown into the prototype at third base. We’re talking Gold Glove caliber defense with 30+ home run power. My prospect comps for him were obviously boom/bust future is unwritten types in Jake Gatewood and Josh Lowe, but both the Frankie Piliere comp (Robinson Cano!) and my own Hanley Ramirez comp are undeniably exciting. Another great prospect comp I heard after the fact for him as a hitter was Fernando Tatis Jr. We probably know too much about him to make this a fair question, but if Tatis was in this class where would he go? Have to think 1-1, right? I need to stop talking about this right now before I get myself too worked up at the realization that Greene won’t get the chance to hit regularly as a professional. You can say I’m overrating him based on small scouting samples. You can say I’m buying into the mythology more than the man. You can say that holding such an extreme minority viewpoint, never a wrong move to make in theory, doesn’t hold up logically when so many other smart people disagree. You can even say holding this position in the first place is a sneaky way of never being wrong as it deals with a hypothetical that will almost certainly never become an actualized reality. All fair points. Damn if I still can’t feel a certain way about this pitching over hitting decision going down as one of the draft’s underrated what-ifs.

4 – One of the fun discussions I got into with a pal recently centered on where Greene ranked in the larger context of every draft I’ve personally covered since starting the site in 2009. It’s an impossible question to answer knowing what we know now, but I did my best to be as honest as I could with pre-draft evaluations only. Feel like Dustin Ackley ranking fifth should be a little bit of proof of said honesty. The toughest call here is at the top, predictably enough. Harper is a no-brainer, but two/three/four can be in almost any order. I’m guessing that my own preference for the safety of a bat over an arm would have had me rank both Bryant and Rendon over Strasburg if they were all in the same draft class. Then again, Strasburg was STRASBURG; it’s difficult to overstate how massive a prospect he was in his draft year. He might be second behind only Harper. Anyway, that’s picking nits and completely unknowable without the benefit of a time machine and some creative selective memory loss. The real point here is to see where Greene ranks. When it comes to prep righthanders, Giolito and Taillon remain in a tier alone at the very top. Greene, Stewart, Pint, and Cole (whoops) are in the next tier down.

1 – Bryce Harper
2 – Kris Bryant
3 – Anthony Rendon
4 – Stephen Strasburg
5 – Dustin Ackley
6 – Carlos Correa
7 – Lucas Giolito
8 – Gerrit Cole
9 – Jameson Taillon
10 – Hunter Greene
11 – Alex Bregman
12 – Brady Aiken
13 – Carlos Rodon
14 – Kyle Zimmer
15 – Jay Groome
16 – Kohl Stewart
17 – MacKenzie Gore
18 – Riley Pint
19 – AJ Cole
20 – Kevin Gausman

5 – “He’s Harper to me.” That was the first sentence of an exchange I had with a friend about Royce Lewis. A better writer could probably find the way to make those four words into the kind of hook that gets me more than a few hundred readers a day. Instead, allow me to explain what he was talking about. The rest of the chat was about how Lewis, like Harper, is skilled enough and athletic enough to stick at his high school defensive spot (shortstop for Lewis, catcher for Harper), but the impact potential each guy possessed as a hitter made it worth it to move him ASAP to let hitting, hitting, and hitting some more become the primary developmental focus. Makes sense to me. So far, however, the Twins are sticking with Lewis as a shortstop. I’ll contradict myself immediately here because I think that’s great. This almost goes back to my Alex Jackson argument from a few years back. People tried to compare his situation to Harper’s at the time, but that never made sense to me. Harper as a hitter was clearly special. Jackson as a hitter was really impressive, but impressive in the way that the top prep hitters are in every draft. His bat wasn’t SO good that you had to go out and rush him to a less demanding defensive spot to get the full power of his offensive game unleashed. I feel similarly about Lewis. He’s an excellent prospect as a center fielder, but in the same way there are excellent high school center field prospects in every draft class. As a shortstop, however, the bat would be special. Missing in this surface-level analysis is the liklihood of the individual players at actually sticking at the more challenging defensive spots. I’ll go to my grave thinking Harper not only could have been a fantastic defensive catcher in the big leagues, but could have done so with little to no short-term damage or delay to his offensive growth. Jackson is a guy that I’m not sure anybody, myself included, genuinely thought could play regularly behind the plate. That wouldn’t have stopped me from trying him there, but knowing realistically he might not make it would have been an important consideration to have in mind prior to selecting him. Lewis is somewhere in between the two for me. I think he can be a quality defender at shortstop with a ton of work between now and his eventual big league debut. Whether or not that amount of work makes it worth it — developmental time is finite, so prioritizing one skill or another is a real consideration — is almost impossible for me to say sitting as far removed from the day-to-day situation as I am. My hunch is that it can be done, but it won’t (and for good reason). We’ll see.

6 – Self-serving site update interlude! I messed around with the formatting of the site for a few days, but, as you can plainly see, we’re right back to where we started. While I don’t love the current look — it’s fine, just a bit tired…though I hate how the pages at the top now that I’ve added to it — it was literally the only theme I found out of the dozens I tried that allowed for the search function to give you the entire post history all on one page. I’m not sure if anybody else cares about that at all, but I sure do. I search my own site all the time. When I do, I search it and then Ctrl+F for whatever it is I’m searching. Every other theme made the Ctrl+F part unusable because the search results would only give me the first few lines of each post. This theme, however, gives you the entire post every time. I love that. So whether or not the aesthetics feel right, function wins yet again. For now…

7 – MacKenzie Gore has me changing my mind every other day. If you ever wondered why I’m just a guy on the internet and not in a front office (LOL – like anybody wonders that), then look no further than the very sentence that came before this one. Real scouts and evaluators are paid to have a real opinion on all the big names at the top of the draft. They can’t be wishy-washy when they’re on the clock and all eyes are on them to make a final decision. I do my best to take a stand and I’d like to think nine years of ranking players lends some credence to that, but there are still certain players in every draft class that I never get a firm grasp on. That was Gore for me this year. I think I love him, but…if you only think it then can you really love it? Love should be an easy yes/no, right? Or am I oversimplifying something way more complicated than I’m making it out to be?

8 – Some days I think Gore is an obvious future star with three — maybe four — above-average to plus pitches, ridiculous athleticism (the 1B to Greene’s 1A as an athlete in this class), and a veteran’s knowledge and appreciation for the craft. Some days I look at the delivery and body type, and I worry about how he’ll hold up making thirty starts a year and whether or not he’ll have the consistent command that will allow him to roll through a lineup three times every fifth day. I genuinely have no real feel for him. If we’re being honest, I think geography has something to do with it. Baseball America — who, as I’ve mentioned before, gets a load of credit for me for stepping up their draft coverage up to their usual standard once again this year — was hot for Gore all spring. Same with Austin Beck. Both players, of course, played their high school ball in North Carolina, the same state where the BA headquarters is located. Seeing a player up close and building personal relationships with the player, coaching staff, and members of the support system can sometimes make a really good player seem great; again, not a knock on the pros at BA, but just an observation of human nature at work. Maybe I’m projecting my own insecurities because that’s an issue I struggle with at times. You want the local guy you’ve seen and grown to like to do well so badly that you almost try to will it to happen subconsciously. I read Baseball America (and Perfect Game and D-1 Baseball) like any fan (everything but the actual rankings), so maybe their cheerleading, for lack of a better word, seeped into my own personal opinion on Gore (wound up loving him if you’re going off my rankings) and Beck (the opposite by the same standard).

9 – I’ll try my best to finish here with some very brief thoughts on the top college guys and prep guys on my board. This may get boring because there are only so many ways for me to write “I love this guy,” so bear with me. Adam Haseley – love this guy. He joins Scott Kingery, Rhys Hoskins, Sixto Sanchez, JP Crawford, and Mickey Moniak in one heck of an impressive top half-dozen in the Phillies system. Kyle Wright and Alex Faedo – love those guys. Atlanta’s collection of pitching depth is one of the craziest things I can recall as a lifetime prospect follower. Faedo might go down as the steal of the draft slipping all the way to eighteen. Cool to see he show why during the College World Series. I hope JB Bukauskas pitches in the Houston bullpen this October. How cool would that be? I also hope Keston Hiura’s wonky elbow gets resolved one way or another soon; I hate the black cloud of uncertainty hanging over an otherwise fascinating prospect. Evan White to Seattle was a fit I didn’t really consider pre-draft, but it feels perfect now. Not sure why, but I can very easily envision him in a Mariners uniform hitting doubles in Safeco (or whatever it’ll be called by then) feels right. Mentioned a very quiet Noah Syndergaard comp for Nate Pearson before the draft only to see him get drafted by Toronto…just as Syndergaard once was. That’s fun.

10 – Brady McConnell at Florida is going to be awesome to watch. I play no favorites with college teams, but Florida is at or near the top of the list of schools I’d recommend to any young man with their heart set on playing college ball. Shane Baz reminds me of somebody, but I can’t think of who it is exactly. It’s been driving me nuts lately. Not Ian Anderson, but close. I loved Trevor Rogers to Miami. I think age is vitally important in projecting amateur prospects to the big leagues. I also think age can be a little overrated when discussing pitching prospects. Rogers being a bit older than you’d like doesn’t bother me at all. I’m such a sucker for sweet-swinging high school first basemen. It’s a problem. Nick Pratto is my latest obsession there. One ranking that could haunt me in the years to come: Jordon Adell at 17. The more I’ve thought about him since the draft, the more I think he’s going to hit in pro ball. Some guys just have a knack for consistent hard contact; that’s Adell. I came this close — imagine my fingers VERY close together — to ranking Hagen Danner as a catcher, so I’m happy to see him begin his pro career there. Kevin Abel, Jake Eder, Steven Williams, Emerson Hancock, Jonny DeLuca, Noah Campbell, Alex Toral…college baseball is going to be a lot of fun with some of these freshman next year.

Site Maintenance

Title says it all, but nobody ever accused me of being unwilling to type 200 words when 2 would do instead. The basic plan is to do some cleaning up along the periphery of the site and make things more easily accessible going forward. The downside is that we might see some weird stuff happen here in the next day or two. A few old posts might get unearthed for posterity’s sake, so don’t be alarmed if it seems like I’m writing about the 2010 draft all of a sudden. I’m not. Also, I might play around with the overall look of the site. I think it’s fine enough as is, but perhaps a little stale. We’ll see what happens.

In addition to trying to teach myself how to beautify a website on the fly, I’m also in the process of getting back to literally everybody who has contacted me via Twitter, email, or in the comments over the past few days, months, and, in some cases, years. That would be the Twitter DM folks…it took me a while to figure out I had messages in there, I’m embarrassed to admit. I’m done (I think) with responding to everybody in the comments. Email and Twitter are next.

Finally, I’d like to get writing again. The baby is doing great — sincere thanks for all who have sent nice messages, by the way — and I’ve got a nice window of time away from work to get back into the routine of writing something — ANYTHING — every single day. I’ve missed that. Less thinking, more writing. That’s my summer goal. So once you see the first post — likely an off the cuff breakdown of this year’s big board explaining as much as the process behind the rankings as I can — you can then expect to see something short every single day.