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Category Archives: 2014 MLB Draft
This list isn’t all that I wanted it to be, but it’s still a fairly strong representation of the players that I’ve either seen up close or feel like I have enough information on to make an educated guess about. Information becomes more scarce the further down the list you go, so keep it that in mind if you’re the type to think the guy listed at 28 is WAY better than the player listed at 17. In fact, it might just be best to focus on the rankings closer to the top of the list while using the back end as just a quick shorthand for the most notable tools each player possesses. Lastly, this list is just a quick version of what I have. If you want to know more about anybody — or want to add something — please don’t hesitate to ask/contribute any way you see fit.
- OF/RHP Michael Gettys (Gainesville HS, Georgia): plus to plus-plus arm strength; plus speed; CF range; good understanding of hitting; bat speed in spades; above-average to plus raw power; can’t shake the Clint Frazier feeling; maybe some Puig; unusually smart player; BA comp: Hunter Renfroe; like a pitcher with inconsistent mechanics, his swing is different at bat to at bat; like Gatewood, will be a player development success or failure; really weird cautionary comps I’ve heard: Michael Main and Anthony Hewitt; tantalizing upside remains; very glad I’m just a guy on the internet and not a professional paid to make a decision on how high to select him; 88-93 FB, 94-95 peak; 75-82 CB/SL flashes plus; 71 CU; heard a Drew Stubbs comp recently that feels pretty strong; 6-2, 200 pounds
- OF Marcus Wilson (Junipero Serra HS, California): CF range; great athlete; plus speed; plus arm; better baseball skills than given credit for; average power, more raw; PG Dexter Fowler comp; FAVORITE; 6-3, 185 pounds
- OF Monte Harrison (Lee’s Summit West HS, Missouri): phenomenal athlete; plus arm strength; above-average to plus speed; raw, but much better skills and feel for game than given credit; quick bat; above-average to plus raw power; average hit tool upside; strong; older for class; FAVORITE; 6-3, 200 pounds
- OF Derek Hill (Elk Grove HS, California): plus-plus speed; quick bat; chance for average power, but gap between now and future is large; silly CF range; average or better arm; love his approach; plus athlete; FAVORITE; 6-1, 175 pounds
- OF Stone Garrett (George Ranch HS, Texas): above-average to plus speed; above-average to plus arm; potentially special bat; born to hit; physically strong, well put together; little bit of Phillip Ervin to him; love the Bernard Gilkey (!) comp; FAVORITE; 6-0, 180 pounds
- OF Todd Isaacs (American Heritage HS, Florida): plus to plus-plus speed; interesting power, could be average; strong hit tool; good arm; good athlete; 5-10, 170 pounds
- OF Trenton Kemp (Buchanan HS, California): plus bat speed; plus raw power; plus speed; good athlete; FAVORITE; 6-2, 185 pounds
- OF Dalton Ewing (Milton HS, Georgia): above-average to plus speed; above-average to plus arm; good athlete; CF range; really quick bat; can get too aggressive; Kiley McDaniel comp: Ryan Boldt; 6-1, 180 pounds
- OF Matthew Railey (North Florida Christian HS, Florida): great athlete; plus bat speed; plus raw power, likely topping average at best in-game; plus speed; average arm; clear CF tools; Denard Span comp; gifted hitter; really old for class; 6-0, 190 pounds
- OF Gareth Morgan (North Toronto Collegiate SS, Ontario): plus raw power; plus arm strength, can be inconsistent; future RF for me; physically looks like Mike Stanton/George Springer; rawness with swing to be expected; below-average speed; 6-4, 210 pounds
- OF Jeren Kendall (Holmen HS, Wisconsin): plus speed; plus CF range; plus arm; plays within himself; leadoff approach; sneaky pop makes him better than most run-first leadoff types; hit tool will come, but not there yet; FAVORITE; 5-10, 170 pounds
- OF Carl Chester (Lake Brantley HS, Florida): plus-plus speed; intriguing pop; big league range in CF; average or better arm; great athlete; good approach; FAVORITE; 6-0, 180 pounds
- OF Clay Casey (Olive Branch HS, Tennessee): plus bat speed; power upside; good hit tool; strong arm; good approach; good athlete; good speed; 6-3, 200 pounds
- OF/RHP Scott Hurst (Bishop Amat HS, California): above-average to plus arm; intriguing power; RF professionally, but good range out there; above-average hit tool; love his swing; mature approach; good athlete; could also play 2B; plus speed; 88-92 FB; 74-75 CB; 6-0, 180 pounds
- OF/LHP Adam Haseley (First Academy, Florida): plus speed; mature approach; PG comp: Johnny Damon; 85-91 FB, 92 peak; 77-80 SL; 80 CU; 6-0, 180 pounds
- OF Zach Sullivan (Corning HS, New York): loaded with tools; quick bat; love the swing, well-coordinated; above-average arm strength, very accurate; really good speed; CF range, impressive instincts and first step quickness; big power and coming on fast; 6-3, 185 pounds
- OF/RHP Zach Shannon (Moeller HS, Ohio): interesting power, plus for some; love his swing; uses the whole field; strong hit tool; plus arm strength; average at best speed; young for class; 88-92 FB, 94-95 peak; plus 76-81 SL; good 83-85 CU; FAVORITE; 6-3, 215 pounds
- OF KJ Bryant (Wade Hampton HS, South Carolina): love the swing mechanics, lower-half works; plus athlete; strong; good in corner; average or better (plus) arm; plus speed
- OF Brodie Leftridge (St. John’s HS, Maryland): plus arm; CF range; great athlete; strong hit tool; power upside; 6-1, 180 pounds
- OF Tristan Rojas (Monroe HS, New York): good speed; good athlete; quick bat; good arm; big power upside; 5-11
- OF Darius Day (Simeon HS, Illinois): plus speed; strong arm; good athlete; PG Curtis Granderson comp; 5-11, 180 pounds
- OF/SS Reese Cooley (Fleming Island HS, Florida): plus speed; good range; strong arm; impressive pop; 6-0, 180 pounds
- OF Braden Mosley (Moline HS, Illinois): good athlete; above-average speed; strong arm; plus raw power; 6-2, 200 pounds
- OF Raphael Ramirez (Pace Academy HS, Georgia): good to plus speed; outstanding defender; CF range, but build could move him off; plus arm; consistent hard contact
- OF Luke Bonfield (IMG Academy, Florida): all he does is hit; easy to believe in the bat; average speed; average arm; LF profile; Skye Bolt comp for me
- OF DJ Peters (Glendora HS, California): quick bat; average or better arm; underrated athlete; average or better power upside, plus for some; average at best speed; 6-6, 215 pounds
- OF Justin Smith (Bartram Trail HS, Florida): plus arm; plus speed; quick bat; strong; impressive power; 6-2, 210 pounds
- OF Jon Littell (Stillwater HS, Oklahoma): power upside; good arm; good athlete
- OF/1B Khevin Brewer (Travis HS, Texas): good athlete; good speed; strong arm; power upside; 6-1, 225 pounds
- OF Gerald Hernandez (Pinnacle HS, Arizona): big raw power; huge bat speed
- OF Anfernee Seymour (American Heritage HS, Florida): plus-plus speed; plus arm; 5-10, 170 pounds
- OF BJ White (Opelika HS, Alabama): strong hit tool; good defender; very good athlete
- OF/1B Kel Johnson (Home School, Georgia): above-average to plus power upside, easy power during BP; sprays ball all over; more power than hit tool; slow; below-average arm; uncanny similarities to Hunter Pence physically; 6-4, 215 pounds
- OF Roberto Gonzalez (University HS, Florida): strong arm; good speed; power upside; 6-2, 190 pounds
- OF/1B Gerard Hernandez (Pinnacle HS, Arizona): quick bat; big raw power
- OF Keenan Eaton (Chaparral HS, Colorado): good CF; really quick bat; 6-0, 200 pounds
- OF Denz’l Chapman (Gardena Serra HS, California): plus-plus speed; average at best arm; 5-9, 180 pounds
- OF Ernie de la Trinidad (Mountain Pointe HS, Arizona): above-average speed; good athlete; popular David DeJesus comp (can’t recall source); 5-8, 150 pounds
- OF Alex Aristy (Florida): plus speed; plus bat speed; interesting power
- OF Branson Trube (Mountain View HS, Idaho): plus speed; power upside; good arm; 5-11, 180 pounds
- OF Zach Jancarski (Chestnut Hill Academy, Pennsylvania): really good speed; good athlete; good defender
- OF Troy Stokes (Calvert Hall HS, Maryland): good speed; CF range; average at best arm; interesting bat; leadoff approach; BA comp: LJ Hoes; 5-10, 185 pounds
- OF/C Stuart Fairchild (Seattle Prep HS, Washington): good speed; strong; power upside
- OF Eric Thomas (Langham Creek HS, Texas): plus speed
- OF Elliot Cary (Clackamas HS, Oregon): good athlete; strong hit tool; good speed; good arm; approach needs refinement
- OF Drew Ellis (Blythewood HS, South Carolina): average or better power; average at best speed; average at best arm; BA body comp: Shawn Green; 6-4, 200 pounds
- OF Lane Thomas (Bearden HS, Tennessee): plus speed; strong arm; average power; average hit tool; old for class; 6-0, 180 pounds
- OF Patrick Mathis (Venus HS, Texas): good speed; power upside; strong; 6-2, 200 pounds
- OF Aidan McDermott (South Plainfield HS, New Jersey): strong hit tool; 6-3
- OF/RHP Marcus Still (Queen Creek HS, Arizona): plus speed; plus CF range; 5-8, 160 pounds
- OF Austin Murphy (Episcopal HS, Florida): average power upside; good athlete; above-average speed; below-average arm; 6-2, 210 pounds
- OF/LHP Garrett McCain (Wylie East HS, Texas): good speed; strong arm; good range; 88-90 FB; 77 CB; 77 CU
- OF Jakob Goldfarb (Desert Mountain HS, Arizona): good athlete; strong arm; average speed
- OF Elijah Dilday (Francis Howell HS, Missouri): strong hit tool; 6-2, 190 pounds
- OF Giovanni Garbella (Cathedral Catholic HS, California): average speed; interesting hit tool
- OF Jack Benninghoff (Rockhurst HS, Missouri): plus arm; CF range
- OF Billy Wilson (Tolleson HS, Arizona): plus speed
- OF Marcos Rivera Rios (Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico): good speed; strong arm
- OF Jamal Howard (Central HS, Alabama): good athlete; strong; swings at everything; good speed; good arm; 6-3, 200 pounds
- OF Joey DeFloria (Hempfield HS, Pennsylvania): good speed; good athlete; average arm
- OF Jack Schaaf (Springboro HS, Ohio): good speed; good athlete; 6-2
- OF/RHP Jared Janczak (Belton HS, Texas): good speed; 88-89 FB; good 75 CB
- OF/LHP Andrew Shaps (Chaparral HS, Arizona): plus arm strength; 87-89 FB; 6-0, 160 pounds
This list isn’t all that I wanted it to be, but it’s still a fairly strong representation of the players that I’ve either seen up close or feel like I have enough information on to make an educated guess about. Information becomes more scarce the further down the list you go, so keep that in mind if you’re the type to think the guy listed at 43 is WAY better than the player listed at 27. In fact, it might just be best to focus on the rankings closer to the top of the list while using the back end as just a quick shorthand for the most notable tools each player possesses. Lastly, this list is just a quick version of what I have. If you want to know more about anybody — or want to add something — please don’t hesitate to ask/contribute any way you see fit. If I didn’t have enough intel on a player as of early June, he was not included on the list.
- C/OF Alex Jackson (Rancho Bernardo HS, California): good defensive skills; plus-plus arm strength; serious power, called plus to plus-plus by some; strong; can hit any pitch; could have the bat to move to RF down the line; solid athlete; bat could be special; above-average bat speed; prefer him as catcher, where I think he’s underrated; overrated bat at this point, but still one of the draft’s best; interesting McDaniel comp: Hunter Renfroe; FAVORITE; 6-2, 220 pounds
- C/RHP Jakson Reetz (Norris HS, Nebraska): strong in all the right ways; above-average to plus arm; excellent hit tool; average or better power; can also play OF and 3B; like his defensive tools quite a bit; good athlete; below-average speed; reminds me of a HS version of Max Pentecost; 88-92 FB, 93 peak; good 79-81 SL/CB; 6-1, 200 pounds
- C/OF Chase Vallot (St. Thomas More HS, Louisiana): plus raw power, shows a lot of it at present; legit plus arm strength; average speed; really strong; quick bat; uses whole field well; good athlete; young for class; defense still a work in progress; slow; fitting BA comp: Mike Napoli; 6-0, 200 pounds
- C/1B Evan Skoug (Libertyville HS, Illinois): like the bat a lot; great approach; strong; slow; above-average arm strength, plays down; steady defender, like him back there way more than most; still undeniably rough glove, but I believe; easy above-average or better raw power; love his approach; BA comp: Kyle Schwarber; FAVORITE; 5-11, 200 pounds
- C Simeon Lucas (Grant Community HS, Illinois): very strong; average power upside; good arm; good defensive tools; impressive approach; good athlete; below-average speed; FAVORITE; 6-2, 200 pounds
- C/1B Bryce Carter (Cascia Hill HS, Oklahoma): love the hit tool; impressive raw power, average or better; slow, but solid glove; average arm; beautiful swing; very strong Stanford commitment; PG Travis Harrison comp; 6-1, 200 pounds
- C JJ Schwarz (Palm Beach Gardens HS, Florida): quick bat; average power upside, arguably more (above-average to plus for others); average hit tool; good approach; impressive defender, better than often given credit for; above-average arm, plays up due to precision; slow, but still a good athlete; 6-1, 200 pounds
- C/1B Michael Cantu (Moody HS, Texas): strong; slow; good athlete; capable defender, underrated in my view; average arm, plays down; plus raw power, plays above-average; swings for the fences, doesn’t get cheated; capable of hitting it all over; 6-4, 225 pounds
- C Devon Fisher (Western Branch HS, Virginia): good athlete; interesting bat, but still raw; average or better power upside; plus arm strength; slow; good approach; 6-1, 200 pounds
- C KJ Harrison (Punahou HS, Hawaii): good athlete; intriguing bat; average or better hit tool; defense still needs work, but rapidly improving; plus raw power; slow; young for class; 6-1, 190 pounds
- C Matt Morgan (Thorsby HS, Alabama): plus athlete; steady glove, love his defensive upside; good arm; plus raw power; slow; 6-0, 200 pounds
- C Cole Bedford (Deer Park HS, Texas): good athlete; good speed; power upside; good approach; good defender
- C Drew Lugbauer (Arlington HS, New York): strong; interesting power, above-average or better; good athlete; strong arm; big fan of his defense; 6-3, 210 pounds
- C Michael Rivera (Venice HS, Florida): good hit tool; average power; strong glove; average at best arm, others have it better (plus); slow; 5-10, 180 pounds
- C Joe Morgan (Sisters HS, Oregon): good defender; strong arm; good athlete; good hit tool; interesting power
- C Riley Jackson (Lexington Catholic HS, Kentucky): good speed for catcher; hits lots of line drives; good defensive tools; strong arm
- C/OF Slade Heggen (Loyola Sacred Heart HS, Montana): good defensive tools; great athlete; average speed; 6-0, 200 pounds
- C Blake Anderson (West Lauderdale HS, Mississippi): plus arm, flashes even better; good athlete; bat is a major question; below-average speed; 6-4, 180 pounds
- C Mitch Trees (Sacred Heart-Griffin HS, Kentucky): above-average to plus arm; great glove; good athlete; questionable bat; 6-2, 200 pounds
- C Riley Adams (Canyon Crest Academy, California): good arm; good athlete; average raw power; 6-4, 185 pounds
- C Nathan Rodriguez (El Dorado HS, California): good defensive tools; average or better arm; much improved bat; average power upside; 5-11, 190 pounds
- C Handsome Monica (St. Paul’s HS, Louisiana): strong; quick bat; plus raw power; strong but very inconsistent arm; average at best glove at present; below-average speed; 6-2, 220 pounds
- C Tim Susnara (St. Francis HS, California): quick bat; plus arm, very accurate; really strong defender; chance to be future backup; 6-0, 200 pounds
- C Matt Duce (Sierra Vista HS, Arizona): good defender; strong arm; quick bat; 5-11, 175 pounds
- C Zachary Risedorf (Northwestern HS, Connecticut): strong arm; quick feet; good athlete; interesting power
- C Tanner Gragg (Blue Valley West HS, Kansas): really good defender; really strong arm
- C Tommy Pincin (Upland HS, California): above-average raw power; chance for average bat; strong arm; raw defender
- C Jordan Hand (Arbor View HS, Nevada): good athlete; good glove; average power
- C Jose Lopez (King HS, Florida): good athlete; strong arm; power upside
- C Thomas Rowan (Santa Ynez HS, California): strong; good athlete; power upside
- C Aaron Rzucidlo (Walton HS, Georgia): above-average arm; average or better raw power
- C Roy Morales (Colegio Angel David HS, Puerto Rico): good arm; good athlete; strong; average power upside; questionable hit tool; slow; 6-1, 200 pounds
- C Ryan Miller (Venice HS, Florida): good speed; strong arm; good defensive tools; 86-89 FB; 81 SL; 6-1, 165 pounds
- C Benito Santiago (Coral Springs Christian Academy, Florida): good behind plate; strong arm; good athlete; average speed; don’t think he hits; 5-9, 165 pounds
- C Mike Papierski (Lemont HS, Illinois): average defensive tools; average hit tool
- C Joseph Freiday (Bridgewater Raynham HS, Massachusetts): strong arm; good athlete
- C Gunnar Troutwine (Shawnee East Mission HS, Kansas): good athlete; average speed
- C Ryan Oberg (Sunnyside HS, Arizona): good defender; strong arm; 6-0, 200 pounds
- C Marshall Gei (Eastern HS, Kentucky): quality defender; strong arm
- C/OF Spencer Levine (Miami Killian HS, Florida): strong arm; good glove
- C Michael Arroyo (Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico): good defender
- C Ryan McCullers (Jesuit HS, Florida): good defender
- C Hunter Taylor (Nandua HS, Virginia): strong defender; 6-1, 210 pounds
- C Zach Taylor (Horizon HS, Arizona): strong; strong arm; 6-1, 210 pounds
- C Justin Morris (Dematha Catholic HS, Maryland): good arm; 6-2, 200 pounds
- C Drew Landis (Red Lion HS, Pennsylvania): average arm; 5-10, 185 pounds
A minor bout with writer’s block (and Louisville playing ten minutes from my apartment for three games) has had me silent of late, so I’m going with the old approach of just picking a random topic and writing until something worthwhile comes out. Whether or not I succeeded here is up for debate (as always), but it does feel good to get back in the swing of things.
Quick aside before we talk HS catchers…I put out some feelers (including my first tweet!) as to whether or not the brains behind College Splits have designs on updating their statistical database for the 2014 season, but have yet to hear back. If anybody knows anything on that front, I’d greatly appreciate an update. Not only does College Splits have certain bits of info that no other site has, but it also has all of said info in one convenient place. The thought of clicking around a couple hundred team websites looking for updated stats does not really appeal to me anymore. Getting too old for that, you know?
I’ve written it before and I’ll surely write it again, but I like Alex Jackson as a catcher going forward. I think he’s good enough defensively at present with enough athleticism and general baseball aptitude to continue to progress behind the plate. My older notes on him reveal what I think will continue to become an accepted truth among industry folk: “not sure of the origin of the ‘not a catcher’ talk, but if he looks like a catcher, fields like a catcher, and leads like a catcher…”
I also think Jackson’s bat is very interesting, but not quite on the level of other prospects transitioned to the outfield in a rush to get them to the big leagues. The latter consideration isn’t reason enough to prevent moving him — if not being Bryce Harper disqualified a catcher from moving off the position to speed up a big league timeline, then we’d have thousands of pro catchers and empty outfields — but it does raise the question about what kind of player you’re really getting if you see Jackson as a top five type of prospect. I say very good to great bat with average to slightly above-average catcher defense. As a hitter — and, I suppose, as potential former catcher — I can see some similarities shared between Jackson and former catcher Paul Konerko. I’d like that comp more if I hadn’t used it twice already (CJ Cron and Kyle Schwarber, but you’ve memorized all my comps by now, right?), though I still think it works here in terms of offensive ceiling (adjusted for era, of course). The bat should play in a corner spot, but it could only be categorized as potentially special if Jackson is left alone and allowed to continue catching.
Just about the only thing I don’t love about Jakson Reetz is the spelling of his first name. His athleticism, arm strength, and hit tool are all top notch tools. Reetz was on my short (well, short-ish) list of FAVORITES that I saw play this past summer. The list has held up fairly well — he was joined at the time by Braxton Davidson, Kel Johnson, Jack Flaherty, Keaton McKinney, Ti’Quan Forbes, and Touki Toussaint — and the specific mention of Reetz’ foot speed, opposite field power, approach at the plate, and, again, athleticism made him one of the standouts among the standouts. In what I still consider a relatively weak year for college catching, — full disclosure: I still have plenty of work to do in finalizing college grades, so I could be way off and you can ignore me if you like — Reetz has a chance to go much, much higher than I think many currently anticipate. A bolder man than I might be tempted to jump him to the top of these rankings, but being locked in at the second spot behind a talent like Jackson and ahead of names like Chase Vallot, Simeon Lucas, Evan Skoug, JJ Schwarz, Bryce Carter, Michael Cantu, and on and on and on isn’t a bad spot to be. I don’t want to get the hype train rolling along too briskly just yet, but a source I trust threw down a “righthanded poor man’s version of Joe Mauer” comp on Reetz that exceeded even my loftiest of expectations of what others see in him. I mean, I thought I liked him, but wow. More realistic yet no less valid comps that I like: “better version of Brandon Inge” (that’s from a source) and my own Russell Martin. I can also buy Blake Swihart if you wanted to use a recent draft example as a frame of reference. Reetz is a really good player.
Burning Question: can he continue to start in professional ball?
Internet Hack’s Answer: Sure. Exciting answer, right? Arm slot and lack of physicality are both fair arguments for the “he’s a reliever” crowd, but pitchers with his kind of stuff should be stretched out and given as many chances as possible to continue starting in the pros. I doubt that response is going to help those who think I’m overly simplistic in my approach to looking at draft talent, but I’m always going to err on the side of “hey, let’s not complicate things, alright?” whenever given the choice. Medeiros has great stuff. He’s gotten great results. He’s a good athlete who is very comfortable being the kind of pitcher he is. Draft him high and let him do this thing. I think he can start, others think he have to relieve; I’m not so baseball stupid to realize that there’s a wide value gap between starting pitchers and relievers, so drafting him too high only to see him up in the pen would be a disappointment on some level, true. It’s just amazing to me that in all the people I’ve talked to, all the smart people who obsess about the draft online all year long, and all the voices inside my own head that won’t shut up when I see Medeiros pitch, I haven’t heard or read or imagined a single person who doubted whether or not Medeiros will consistently get hitters out one day at the big league level. Starter or reliever? Fair question. Will he get guys out? Please, do you really have to ask? For any high school pitcher, that’s an amazing compliment. For a low arm slot 6-0, 180 pound lefthander from Hawaii, it’s really something.
My “not a comp” comparison in terms of recent amateur pitchers with similar general profiles is current Astros minor leaguer Lance McCullers. The righthanded McCullers didn’t have quite the same arm slot questions — hence the “not a comp” caveat — but I think in terms of raw stuff, physical stature, and the overarching “can he or can’t he start?” narrative, it fits. McCullers had a little more giddyup on the fastball (Medeiros sits 88-93, touches 94-95), but Medeiros’ overall fastball grades out very similarly thanks to his uncanny inability (in a good way) to throw any fastball on a direct line to home plate. The young lefty has movement you can’t teach, and it helps an already very good fastball work as plus to plus-plus. Couple that with a wipeout 78-83 slider (a tick softer than McCullers’, yet no less devastating), a surprisingly effective changeup (78-85, above-average upside but will flash plus presently on occasion), and an eagerness to establish ownership on the inner-half of the plate, and you’ve got yourself a first round talent. The “not a comp” comp McCullers’ draft selection — supplemental first, 41st overall — represents a good ballpark draft range (give or take a few picks) for Medeiros.
I could end things here. We’ve at least partially addressed the concerns surround Medeiros, we’ve covered what he throws, and we’ve even offered up a half-hearted yet not awful (I’m not humble, clearly) frame of reference in the person of Lance McCullers. I could end things here, but I can’t. I’ve spent more time away from the site thinking about Medeiros than any other player in this entire draft class. He’s quite easily in my personal top ten most fascinating 2014 MLB Draft prospects to watch going forward. I can sometimes get so wrapped up in this little draft world that I fail to check in enough on how certain guys are doing in pro ball — though I happened to see today that Curt Casali was tearing up AA, damn near brought a tear to my eye — but you can be sure I’ll follow Medeiros no matter where he lands.
The arm slot thing is what gets me, mostly because I didn’t really care all that much about arm slot as recently as six months ago. I’m not sure I necessarily care now — the homework that I’ve done has led me to my personal conclusion that, like a pitcher’s mechanics in general, any arm slot can be effective in any role as long as the pitcher is comfortable with it — but I do find the mountain of available research on the topic pretty darn interesting. I realize I’m years late to this, but I can’t tell you how many hours have been lost these last few months thanks to the work done at Texas Leaguers and Brooks Baseball. Anytime you find something online that makes you a little bit mad you weren’t smart enough to figure out on your own — I’m pathetic when it comes to technology, so those kinds of data pulls are nothing short of miraculous to me — you know you’ve found something worthwhile. Between my own research and a few helpful contacts around the game, the arm slot/stuff comps I’ve heard that I find most instructive are Jake Diekman, a shorter Rich Hill, and, even though he was used for Brady Aiken already, Madison Bumgarner. Interesting group.
Three more fun names I’ll throw out there, more about stuff and potential pro impact than release point: Francisco Liriano, Scott Kazmir, and Jose Quintana. I don’t mean to dilute the already suspect nature of prospect/player comparisons, but I see a lot of Medeiros in a lot of different guys. It happens. The fact that none of the three come all that close from an arm slot perspective bugs me, but the stuff and stature of each guy feels on point. I think any of those three could be fair representations of Medeiros’ ceiling as a starting pitcher (Quintana is my favorite, I think) while a potentially dominant reliever like Diekman should be the floor.
Dylan Cease has first round stuff, but the injury concerns are a major red flag. I’m not a scouting director nor do I want to play one on the internet, but, if you’ll indulge me just one time, I will admit that, job on the line, I would not have the guts to take a top 30ish pick on a pitcher with a partially torn UCL who hasn’t pitched since March. It’s easy to say “wow, he’ll be a great value pick and we can get a first round talent at a reduced price in terms of picks and cash once he starts slipping,” but actually pulling the trigger is a different thing altogether. You only get so many early round selections as a decision-maker in this game, so you’d better be damn sure you’ll hit on those top choices. We’ll have to assume that whatever team selects Cease early has done extensive homework on his condition, but any arm that has already undergone an injury like his is at a higher risk for more trouble going forward.
His plus fastball (easy heat at 90-95, 97 peak), plus breaking ball (Frankie Piliere compares it to AJ Burnett’s while others have deemed it a huge work in progress; I’m with Piliere here), underrated changeup, plus command, athleticism, and freaky strength (pound-for-pound he might be the strongest pitcher in this year’s class) all give him considerable upside, but none of that is of practical use if he’s not healthy. Best case scenario can go either one of two ways: 1) the Platelet-Rich Therapy is effective (like Zach Greinke’s, as cited in the article linked above) and he’s back throwing gas in no time, or 2) surgery is required, but recovery goes well and he returns as good as new (more or less) by mid-season next year. The second scenario isn’t ideal for any high pick, but it’s all about the long view with draft prospects. Worst case scenario is…well, you know. I don’t want to make more of a “small tear of the UCL” than deserved, but every human responds differently to injury and, despite medical breakthroughs so amazing they border on inconceivable, there are no guarantees. This is not a great comp in terms of stuff, but more of a future potential impact/body type/athleticism/injury history point of reference: Cease reminds me a little bit of Rich Harden.
Luis Ortiz has first round stuff, but the injury concerns are a major red flag. I’m not a scouting director nor do I…yeah, you get the point. I lumped the two pitchers together for a reason, after all. Ortiz offers similar stuff to Cease, but with a quality slider instead of a curve as his primary breaking ball. The body has a little more bulk than Cease, and it’s not necessarily good weight, but everybody I’ve talked to has been very complimentary about how hard Ortiz has worked to improve his physique over the past calendar year. I think Grant Holmes is probably the closest physical comp to him in this class, but that’s where the comparison would end for me. I don’t have a good comp for Ortiz so I won’t force one — first time for everything, I guess — but I will say that stuff-wise the aforementioned Cease/Harden comparison makes less sense than an Ortiz/Harden (both slider reliant) comp. Not so much in body type/athleticism, of course.
Unlike Cease, Ortiz is back and throwing. He’s not yet where he was pre-injury, but it’s a process. As for the injury itself, published reports have it as a “forearm strain.” Anecdotally, it seems that forearm strain is code for something else altogether, but speculating beyond that won’t get us anywhere. It is obviously encouraging that he’s back, and we can choose to spin his early struggles due to rust rather than any lingering discomfort. I sincerely hope that’s the case, but I still think it is fair to have Ortiz as a big injury red flag until we see more.
Bryce Montes de Oca is a different animal altogether. Montes de Oca has already had Tommy John surgery, so the road map to his recovery — more accurately continued recovery as he’s already back and throwing well for Lawrence HS — is far more clearly defined. The injury still puts him in the high-risk, red flag category going forward, but he’ll have a few more appearances to show scouts he’s back at or near 100% before the draft. The stuff is pretty much what you’d expect from a young, raw 6-8, 265 pound power pitching mountain of a man: plus fastball (88-94 with serious sink, 96-97 peak), mid-70s curve with promise, and a hard mid-80s change that needs work. The upside is tantalizing, though it is worth noting that (anecdotal observation alert!) young pitchers built like Montes de Oca often take longer to develop if they can develop the kind of body control and ability to harness their stuff at all. I’m as guilty as oohhing and aahhing at guys built like Montes de Oca as much as anybody, so realizing the challenges bigger pitchers face from an athletic standpoint should help temper expectations back down to more reasonable levels. He’s still a premium amateur talent.
Three high upside high school righthanded pitchers who flash above-average big league starter stuff. Three worrisome recent injuries. Three major draft wild cards. June 5-6-7 can’t come soon enough.
I didn’t intend to write 1,000+ words on one pitcher, but here we are. Let’s talk everybody’s favorite reclassified young arm, Jacob Bukauskas…
Since day one at this site I’ve championed pitchers of all sizes, tossing aside the traditional belief that short righthanders should be pushed down on draft day. It’s been great to see big league teams seemingly become more open-minded towards shorter righthanders in recent years, no doubt due to my massive influence on front offices across baseball. Teams are realizing that making hard and fast rules about height, weight, and frame requirements serves only to limit one’s prospective talent pool. There will always be worries about shorter pitchers, ranging from the interesting yet unproven belief that short pitchers can’t get the same kind of downward plane as taller guys (accepted as fact by many, but I’m not there yet and I’d love to see the raw data on it) to the patently absurd fears about injury risks and general quality of stuff (“Shorter pitchers are just as effective and durable as taller pitchers“). We’re all human and as such we are all — well, most of us — drawn to pitchers that remind us of other successful pitchers. It’s not our fault, it’s just how our brains are wired. The vast majority of successful pitchers in big league history have fit the traditional height/weight mold preferred by the old guard, so it’s no shock that we look for familiar body types when searching for the next big thing. As much as I like to think I am capable of looking past physical measurements alone, there’s no way I can cop to being without my own scouting biases. Awareness of said biases can lead to over-corrections, and now you see how this whole conversation can unravel in a hurry. Deep down, like everybody else, I have a mental image of what I want my ideal pitching prospect to look like. Over time, I’ve tried to grow more open-minded towards all shapes and sizes. Then one day I wake up and realize I’m giving smaller guys the benefit of the doubt when I might not do the same for otherwise similar traditionally built player. So then I move back towards appreciating a 6-5, 220 pound specimen and the cycle repeats. Now my brain hurts, so let’s go back and see if we can extract a cogent point out of that mess.
Do you get the feeling at any point there that I was building towards a massive BUT? I hope so. We’re talking J-Lo/Kardashian/Minaj/Antonio Bastardo territory here. Was that lame reference worth forever having “biggest butt celebrity” in my browser history? I’m leaning yes. I do love short pitchers. I think there was a huge imbalance even just a few short years ago ripe to be exploited by smart front offices. The gap has closed of late, but there’s still some Moneyball-type identification of undervalued asset potential here. Let teams battle for the perfectly proportioned pitching prospects while waiting back and scooping up the oddballs who can give you similar results once the ball leaves the hand. I do love short pitchers, but there are a few things to consider on a case-by-case basis when evaluating them that may not be worth worrying about otherwise.
Fastball plane, injury risks, and quality/diversity of stuff aren’t things I will personally ding a shorter player for without specific evidence pertaining to a specific player. No generalizing if I can help it. One thing that I legitimately worry about when it comes to shorter pitchers, especially those on the stockier side, is how much growth is left in their game. Physical projection is critical when evaluating players who won’t play meaningful big league roles for five+ years down the line. It’s not quite real estate’s location, location, location, but a familiar scouting refrain is projection, projection, projection. Performance matters, obviously, and I think I do a decent job of highlighting that, especially with college players with more meaningful track records, but it’s not about what a guy has done in the past but rather a projection about what he will do in the future.
Stone Bridge HS RHP Jacob Bukauskas (6-0, 200 pounds) doesn’t have what I’d call a stocky frame by any stretch, but it is a build that looks more or less how it will look for the first dozen or so years (if he’s lucky) of his professional career. I actually think his body isn’t a concern going forward — he’s a good athlete who obviously works hard to stay in really good shape — but that alone doesn’t mean we’ll ever see a serious uptick in stuff once he hits pro ball, as many automatically assume for all younger amateurs. Obvious counterpoint is obvious: if the present stuff is good enough, then why worry? Dylan Bundy, Grant Holmes, and Bukauskas all showed the kind of premium stuff as prep pitchers to warrant early first round draft consideration. Bundy cashed in, Holmes looks like a really good bet to do the same, and Bukauskas, if you believe the hype over the past few weeks, could very well make it a trio of high achievers.
What’s tough about Bukauskas — and you can attribute this to his frame, or not — is the wide variance of stuff he’s shown from start to start. At his best, the early first round consideration makes complete sense. His fastball is hot (mid-90s, rumors of triple-digit peak early in the spring), his mid-80s changeup will flash plus, and his low-80s slider does the same. On other days, the buzz surround Bukauskas seems more about the novelty of his reclassification; scouts get draft fatigue like anybody else, so when there’s suddenly somebody new to consider the excitement of a shiny new toy can surpass the reality of a good yet not great prospect. Even at reduced velocity (88-92ish, 95 peak), Bukauskas would merit top three round consideration thanks to the flashes he has shown with the secondary offerings (though, in fairness, there are starts when those flashes are few and far between compared to his better days), the freaky high pitching IQ he’s demonstrated with every trip to the mound, and his relative youth.
I may be giant hypocrite, but Bukauskas’ size and ability to add to his frame in a positive way worries me. I’m not proud to say it, but I’d feel much better about his draft ranking if he three inches taller with a little more room to fill out. However, even with a frame that offers little in the way of projection you can see the makings of a mid-rotation or better starting pitcher based solely on present stuff, command, and pitchability. The total package is undeniably impressive, all six feet of it.
We covered 1 and 2 on this list the other day, so why not check in with 3 and 4 today? I still want to explore the idea of high school pitching wild cards, something I was hoping to do in a quick piece covering a bunch of names. Once I started going on Grant Holmes and Touki Toussaint, however, I couldn’t stop until I emptied as much as I could from the notebook. Here we go…
RHP Grant Holmes (Conway HS, South Carolina)
What makes him a wild card: he’s currently listed at 6-1, 210 pounds and will have to overcome the dreaded short/stocky righthanded pitcher stigma
Let’s get right to it with Holmes, an outstanding young pitcher with present stuff (easy plus fastball velocity and sink, above-average breaking ball that flashes plus, above-average hard changeup that flashes plus, good yet inconsistent command that takes him from a really good prospect to a great one when working) rivaled by very few in his class. Comps aren’t for everybody, but I find general body type and stuff comparisons useful for developing a frame of reference for players that many reading might never see until they hit the big leagues. Baseball America has used both Chad Billingsley and Eric Gagne as comps for Holmes in the past, but I personally enjoy the Bartolo Colon comparison (forget who mentioned this one, but as a fan of Colon’s, both the young version and the jolly older iteration) most of all. I’ve also heard “husky Sonny Gray,” Yovani Gallardo, and, an excellent blast from the past, former Astros righthander Wade Miller. Alright, I won’t lie: “husky Sonny Gray” isn’t something I’ve heard but one that I’ve come up with. You could think of those names as Holmes’ comp continuum if so inclined: floor (Miller/Gagne), happy medium (Gallardo/Billingsley), and ceiling (thicker Gray). A name that also keeps coming back to me is Wil Crowe, currently a freshman at South Carolina. Crowe, who really should see a doctor about those two lost inches from his pre-draft listed height, has a similar body type, assortment of pitches (though Holmes’ fastball-breaking ball-changeup are all an easy half-grade or more higher than Crowe’s, no disrespect for Gamecock intended), and command. I’m not sure how Crowe fits in to a discussion on Holmes — really, Holmes should be brought up when talking Crowe, noting that he could be a lesser version of the 2014 draft star with continued growth at USC — but I like giving a quality college guy a mention whenever possible so we’ll let it stand.
I think there’s some merit to the popular Dylan Bundy comparison, especially as it pertains to his draft stock. Bundy may not have been the first short prep righthander to go high in the draft, but he has gone his part and more to break through the glass ceiling for the demographic. Bundy’s tremendous early success as a professional – injury notwithstanding – ought to allay some concerns about Holmes’ pro future. I’m not saying that’s logical necessarily, as one man’s accomplishments have no bearing on another’s future, but front offices like having a recent example to cite when justifying a pricey early round selection to the big bosses. That pesky little “injury notwithstanding” note that I slipped in there could give some teams pause; much like how teams could foolishly believe Bundy’s success will help Holmes, there could be some fear that the O’s young hurler’s injury will doom Holmes’ right arm before long. I haven’t heard or read any reasonable person claim Bundy’s injuries have had anything to do with not being 6-3, 220 pounds, so hopefully that’s not the case. Just throwing it out there. I’d be surprised if Holmes matches Bundy’s draft standing (4th overall), but that’s more because of the strength at the top of this year’s draft than a knock on Holmes. That being said, Bundy was still the superior draft prospect; again, not a knock on Holmes, just highlighting how darn impressive Bundy was as an amateur.
Also, and this is similar to what you’ll read below about Toussaint, it should be noted that there have been positive reports about Holmes’ dedication to getting his body in shape over the past few months. Young guys can right present wrongs, and development is as important, if not more so, than straight talent acquisition.
RHP Touki Toussaint (Coral Springs Christian HS, Florida)
What makes him a wild card: his command can charitably be called “inconsistent,” though recent reports have him heading in the right direction.
I’ve long believed that consistent command begins with consistent mechanics which is aided by repetition and athleticism. Nobody will deny Toussaint’s considerable athletic gifts, so the prospect of improved command comes down to the fairly simple fix of going out and getting innings in. Overly simplistic? Probably. A viable enough potential solution that I’d be willing to use an early first round pick on a pitcher with his kind of stuff? Without a doubt. I’m bullish on Toussaint.
I’m not envious of the big league front office that has to make a decision between a raw yet intriguing prospect like Toussaint and a polished strike-thrower like LSU’s Aaron Nola. The presence of those two players in the same draft pool is why I find the MLB Draft the most fascinating major draft to follow. The two young men will likely grade out as very similar prospects (say, 5th-25th ranked) on many draft boards, but the only real similarity between the two carbon-based lifeforms (well, I guess that’s a second similarity) share is handedness. You could not dream up two better highly ranked opposites. You have the young HS power arm with the flashy stuff who lacks the present ability to properly harness it versus the wily college star with stuff that doesn’t excite but the command of a seasoned big league veteran. That’s as interesting a story line in this year’s draft as you’ll find, and I can’t wait to track each young player’s respective professional career. However, I want to be careful to not pigeonhole either player into a needlessly constricting archetype. Narratives are great fun, but let’s be as accurate as we can. Toussaint’s command, while admittedly a work in progress, is far from a lost cause, and the strides he’s shown to this point — remember how limited his experience on the diamond is — are very encouraging. Nola is the guy with the plus-plus command, but that’s sometimes said in almost a pejorative manner: he’s not a junkballer relying on guile and precision, but rather a pitcher with really good — not great, but still really good — stuff that does play up because of pinpoint command. Draft weekend couldn’t come soon enough, I love this stuff.
I’m fairly sure I’m on record as calling Toussaint’s curve one of the best prep breaking balls I have ever personally seen. That pitch alone is a separator between him and many of his peers. His fastball is another easy plus pitch thanks to serious movement (it’s a tough one to elevate) and mid-90s heat. Throw in the “other stuff” (cut-SL, split-CU, truer cutter, harder splitter) that appears and reappears depending on the outing, add the aforementioned athleticism, and you’ve got yourself an elite skill set to work with. I’ve taken to calling him the HS version of Tyler Beede, a fairly obvious comparison due to each pitcher’s ongoing issues with throwing quality strikes, but I think an amalgamation of Lucas Sims, CJ Edwards, and, my personal favorite (and a guy Toussaint could look to as a developmental role model), Robert Stephenson gives some idea about what kind of player we’re talking about.
Brady Aiken, Jeff Hoffman (if healthy), Carlos Rodon, and Tyler Kolek make up my current top tier of pitching talent. Not too far behind them are Holmes, Beede, and Toussaint, currently in that order but very much subject to change. I’d be comfortable running with those seven players as my top seven overall players on the board, though there is room for a certain high school bat (or two…) to break through yet.