(The mock itself is at the bottom buried under 9000+ words of attempted quantitative and qualitative analysis. Skipping to it won’t hurt my feelings, I promise.)
(Also, I’m back. Took a little extra time “off” over the summer than planned. Time away was well spent, both in terms of the work I’ve been able to compile without having to worry about updating the site — I’m more on top of this high school class than I have been in years — and in the good old fashioned battery recharging department. I’m ready to go. That said, I have no idea how my schedule will look now that there’s a human being who depends on me and doesn’t understand how punching away at a laptop could possibly be more important than reading Good Night Moon for the thousandth time. I mean, are you saying no to this face?
But I’m going to do my best to keep the site up and running as long as I can. We’ve come too far to shut it down now. So even though I don’t know the exact future of the site, I can say with a high degree of certainty that the 2018 MLB Draft [and likely beyond] will be covered in as much depth as time allows. This dumb thing is a part of me now, and I really can’t imagine life without it.)
(I really appreciate all of the messages and emails over the last few months. I enjoy doing this for entirely selfish reasons, but knowing that other people enjoy it really does make my day. I’ll respond to everybody within the next week or so. In the meantime, the big question that I keep getting asked — are you doing 2017 draft reviews? — doesn’t have an answer yet. I want to, but there’s no way I can do them as I did last year and still a) function as a normal human these next few months, and b) get the kind of 2018 draft preview content up that I want. So, I’m on the fence right now. I think the most likely outcome is a modified version of the reviews, streamlined somewhat…but that suggests that I know how to self-edit, and that’s something we know I can’t [or won’t] do. So…we’ll see? There will be something for 2017, but I just don’t know what exactly.)
This upcoming draft will be my tenth since starting the site. Hard to believe, but true. One of the best parts about being around so long is having a bit more perspective to look back on past drafts and determine if there are any worthwhile trends to share. I’ve long thought that draft trends function better as fun discussion starters than meaningful predictive tools, so don’t take my attempt at using simple math to make this research feel more scientific as anything but a nice little way to kick off the 2018 draft season conversation.
In the nine drafts covered on this site to date, there have been 295 total first round picks. Let’s look at some demographic information on those lucky 295 players…
HS catchers – 8
HS first basemen – 3
HS second basemen – 2
HS third basemen – 5
HS shortstops – 24
HS outfielders – 37
HS pitchers – 61
HS total = 140 (47.5%)
College catchers – 9
College first basemen – 6
College second basemen – 4
College third basemen – 12
College shortstops – 14
College outfielders – 27
College pitchers – 83
College total = 155 (52.5%)
Now let’s talk averages. Who doesn’t love data landmarks? It’s fifth grade math class all over again. We’ve got means, modes, medians, and ranges to get to. Let’s start with the mode for each demographic subsection…
HS catchers – 0
HS first basemen – 0
HS second basemen – 0
HS third basemen – 1
HS shortstops – 2
HS outfielders – 5
HS pitchers – 7
College catchers – 1
College first basemen – 0
College second basemen – 0
College third basemen – 1
College shortstops – 1
College outfielders – 2
College pitchers – 9 and 10
More often than not, we’re getting first rounds with no HS catchers, HS first basemen, HS second basemen, college first basemen, and college second basemen. Interesting! And now the medians…
HS catchers – 1
HS first basemen – 0
HS second basemen – 0
HS third basemen – 1
HS shortstops – 2
HS outfielders – 4
HS pitchers – 7
College catchers – 1
College first basemen – 0
College second basemen – 0
College third basemen – 1
College shortstops – 1
College outfielders – 3
College pitchers – 9
Not sure how useful this data is because we’re dealing with such a small sample to begin with, but I typed it all up so we might as well use it. Let’s look at the ranges next and hope for something a bit more meaningful…
HS catchers – 2 (0 to 2)
HS first basemen – 1 (0 to 1)
HS second basemen – 1 (0 to 1)
HS third basemen – 1 (0 to 1)
HS shortstops – 2 (2 to 4)
HS outfielders – 4 (2 to 6)
HS pitchers – 5 (5 to 10)
College catchers – 3 (0 to 3)
College first basemen – 3 (0 to 3)
College second basemen – 2 (0 to 2)
College third basemen – 4 (0 to 4)
College shortstops – 5 (0 to 5)
College outfielders – 3 (2 to 5)
College pitchers – 4 (7 to 11)
I like this. We can now see that there’s never been a year with more than one HS first baseman, HS second baseman, or HS third baseman. The large spread of high school pitchers and college shortstops is fun, too. You never really know what you’re going to get with those two groups. Finally, everybody’s favorite, the means…
HS catchers – 0.9
HS first basemen – 0.3
HS second basemen – 0.2
HS third basemen – 0.6
HS shortstops – 2.7
HS outfielders – 4.1
HS pitchers – 6.8
College catchers – 1.0
College first basemen – 0.7
College second basemen – 0.4
College third basemen – 1.3
College shortstops – 1.6
College outfielders – 3.0
College pitchers – 9.2
This is the data we’ll do most of our work off of going forward. We’ll come back to it soon. In the meantime, let’s look at all of the data put together (with rounded means)…
HS catchers – 0, 1, 2, 1
HS first basemen – 0, 0, 1, 0
HS second basemen – 0, 0, 1, 0
HS third basemen – 1, 1, 1, 1
HS shortstops – 2, 2, 2, 3
HS outfielders – 5, 4, 4, 4
HS pitchers – 7, 7, 5, 7
College catchers – 1, 1, 3, 1
College first basemen – 0, 0, 3, 1
College second basemen – 0, 0, 2, 0
College third basemen – 1, 1, 4, 1
College shortstops – 1, 1, 5, 2
College outfielders – 2, 3, 3, 3
College pitchers – 9/10, 9, 4, 9
Some pretty clear data landmark trends seem to have developed. That’s always comforting to see. Let’s finish this math off. If we take the original means that produced a 32.8 player first round on average and adjust them to our upcoming 30 player first round, we get these figures…
HS catchers – 0.8
College catchers – 0.9
First basemen – 0.9
Second basemen – 0.5
Third basemen – 1.7
Shortstops – 3.9
HS outfielders – 3.8
College outfielders – 2.7
HS pitchers – 6.2
College pitchers – 8.4
Some logical combinations were also made along the way, clearly. If we then round everything off, we see we’re at 31 players in this year’s first round. That’s one too many, so somebody is going to get unfairly cut along the way. It probably makes the most sense to dump one of the pitchers, but we’ll play it by ear and see what make actually makes sense once we get started. Maybe we can find a sneaky way to slip that thirty-first player in. We’ll see. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the prospective names that match up with the numbers…
HS Catcher (1)
Will Banfield (Brookwood HS, Georgia), Noah Naylor (St. Joan of Arc Catholic SS, Ontario), and Anthony Seigler (Cartersville HS, Georgia) have separated themselves from the rest of the prep catching class by a pretty healthy margin at this point. All three are sensational athletes with the clear defensive tools and understanding of the nuances of the game to remain behind the plate. Many would argue that Banfield’s last calendar year was so impressive that he belongs in a tier unto himself. I’m not quite there as Naylor is his near equal athletically and Seigler can more than hang with him as a hitter, but I can appreciate the sentiment.
If we had to bet on only one of these high school catchers getting drafted in June, Banfield is the smart present choice. Of course, two prep catchers were selected in each of the 2010, 2012, and 2013 drafts, so one of those two top guys joining Banfield (or even Naylor and Seigler squeezing out Banfield altogether) can’t be ruled out. You also can’t discount the possibility of all three catchers going in the first round, but allowing for the possibility amounts to ignoring recent draft history. I checked every single MLB Draft in my literal lifetime (i.e., since 1985) and could not find a single first round with three prep catchers. Maybe we make history this year…but probably not.
Others: Naylor, Seigler
College C (1)
If you read the site regularly, you know I love college catchers. I’m pretty sure I write about them a disproportionate amount compared to what they are actual worth, but I don’t care. I think college catchers are fun. That’s why it pains me to say that this year’s class isn’t really grabbing me in the same way recent classes have. Part of that is my admitted lack of love for some of the consensus top guys, something that can change quickly as we move closer to the actual draft and the contrarian impulses begin to die down a bit. My favorite current guys include Nick Fortes (Mississippi), Ryan Jeffers (UNC Wilmington), Nick Meyer (Cal Poly), and Cal Raleigh (Florida State). Fortes has the feel of a player on the verge of a major breakout; give him steady playing time, good health, and all the opportunities to show off for scouts that come with playing in the SEC (and catching some premium draft arms to boot)…and watch out. Meyer is somewhat similar in terms of defensive upside and athleticism, but with the plus of a longer track record and the minus of less functional present power. It may be a career backup catcher profile if he proves unable to drive the ball with consistency, but a three-tool catcher like him is pretty interesting regardless. I can’t pretend to know all that much about Jeffers’s defensive acumen (“above-average to plus arm” is all I have on him for now), but his offensive profile (plus raw power, unique physical strength) and stellar sophomore season have me intrigued to learn more.
All in all, I think the most interesting college catcher in the class is Raleigh. He’s got the best blend of power, patience, and likelihood of sticking defensively for me. His intersection of upside and certainty is pretty exciting, though the knocks (too big for the position, too much swing-and-miss) are valid. I can’t tell if the fact there are a half-dozen worthy contenders for the college catcher throne speaks to the quality depth at the position or the lack of star power. Little bit of both, I suppose.
Others: Fortes, Jeffers, Meyer, Nick Dalesandro (Purdue), Colin Simpson (Oklahoma State), Vito Friscia (Hofstra), Dominic DiCaprio (Rice), Garrett Wolforth (Dallas Baptist), Grant Koch (Arkansas), Michael Curry (Georgia), Kole Cottam (Kentucky), Chris Cullen (South Carolina), Josh Breaux (McLennan JC)
First Basemen (1)
In a typical year, just one first basemen is selected in the draft’s first round. Actually, that’s not entirely true because four of the last nine years saw no first base prospect at all selected in the first round, but one per year has been the statistical mean over the last nine years so let’s go with that. Either way, the presence of Seth Beer (Clemson) makes this an atypical year. Much has been written about Beer already and plenty more will be said between now and June. My quick take coming from an individual who consumes far too much draft-related content: Beer is this year’s (or one of this year’s) properly rated to overhyped to underrated prospect. Every draft cycle there are a couple of prospects who capture the imagination of mainstream baseball fans. Beer, thanks to a fun last name and monster freshman numbers, became one of those very prospects for 2018. Verdict? Properly rated. That fame (and, to be fair, that ridiculous freshman season) had some fans thinking of Beer as a potential 1-1 candidate. Survey says…overhyped! Now we see early draft rankings and general prospect-related buzz that puts Beer well outside the draft’s first round. To me, this feels a little bit like an overcorrection based on wanting to show the “non-draft” people who were excited about Beer that he’s really not as good as they think. Maybe I’m off on that guess and people aren’t nearly as petty as I think they are (or, more accurately, as I know I am), but it does seem weird to me that a player who has hit the way Beer has these last two seasons can’t find a place in the top thirty or so picks. While I think Beer has a good shot of being a first round pick even as a first baseman, the fact that he has an outside shot to work himself into shape as a playable corner outfielder just sweetens the whole deal. Barring an offensive collapse (not likely) or serious injury, I think Beer can safely be called a future first round pick.
Alec Bohm (Wichita State) is pretty great, too. He’d be a slam dunk first round candidate any other year. He’s also another player that we’re currently calling a first baseman that may not actually be announced that way (third base and corner outfield are both possibilities for him) come June. If you like plus raw power and a discerning batting eye, Bohm is your guy. Could be recency bias infected our heads, but I’ve heard the name Rhys Hoskins mentioned multiple times (two is multiple!) as a point of comparison to what Bohm could be in pro ball.
I’m as excited about Triston Casas (American Heritage HS, Florida) as can be, but will admit to being a bit gun-shy after last year’s version (Alex Toral) went from expected first round pick (by me) to very much not a first round pick and on campus at Miami. I realize that’s not a very fair way to judge a prospect and Casas’s virtues (power and patience, mainly) are entirely his own, but nobody ever said prospect analysis was fair. The history of high school first basemen going in the first round isn’t very kind, but Casas has enough early buzz that a big spring could carry him all the way into the top thirty.
Others: Bohm, Casas, Luken Baker (TCU), Nick Patten (Delaware), Mickey Gasper (Bryant)
Second Basemen (1)
Nick Madrigal (Oregon State) is a first round lock. He’s a true five-tool talent with a legitimate plus hit tool, double-digit home run pop, plus speed, and all the defensive skills (athleticism, hands, arm) to project as an impact talent in the middle infield. The only way he doesn’t wind up as this year’s only first round second baseman is if he’s announced on draft day as a shortstop, a position that he might just have enough arm talent to play in pro ball. This may be a little too out there as far as predictions go and I’m spoiling a pick on the “mock” already, but why not: Madrigal follows the Alex Bregman route to pro ball by getting himself selected second overall in June. Quick performance comparison between the two using Bregman’s junior year (top) and Madrigal’s sophomore year (bottom)…
.323/.412/.535 – 36 BB/22 K – 38/48 SB – 260 AB
.380/.449/.532 – 27 BB/16 K – 16/20 SB – 237 AB
There hasn’t been a prep second baseman drafted in the first round since 2010. That doesn’t seem likely to change in 2018. It’s Madrigal or bust this year.
Others: Devin Mann (Louisville), Nick Dunn (Maryland), Ako Thomas (Michigan), Terrin Vavra (Minnesota), Ryne Ogren (Elon), Cobie Vance (Arkansas)
Third Basemen (2)
It’s early, but, wow, does it look like a rough class for college third basemen. I guess I’d go with Brendan Donovan (South Alabama) as my top guy for now, but that’s without the benefit of knowing as much as I’d like about his defense (some peg him as a future outfielder) or with the full confidence that his sophomore year jump in production can be sustained. I’m quite bullish on the guy, but there’s still little denying that his place on the top of the heap is owed to a lack of competition as much as anything he’s done.
On the bright side, the high school class of third basemen looks excellent. I currently count seven prospects at the hot corner who could challenge for first round consideration. Of that seven, I’d say three are obvious and four are slightly more sleeper-ish. Forgive the cliché, but Nolan Gorman (Sandra Day O’Connor HS, Arizona) has the scout favored classic “light-tower power” that makes scouts, coaches, teammates, and fans weak in the knees. As nice as the power is, it’s Gorman’s mature approach as a hitter, above-average to plus arm, and solid defensive tools that give him a shot to be a long-term fixture at third base. Then there’s Jordan Groshans (Magnolia HS, Texas), a rangy 6-4, 190 pounder with a big arm, above-average speed, game-changing power, and the kind of electric bat speed that gets even a guy typically ambivalent about bat speed to take notice. Then there’s arguably my favorite prep third baseman of them all, Nick Northcut (Mason HS, Ohio). I swear I had this comp before Perfect Game mentioned it (good call by them, by the way), but Northcut’s profile reminds me a whole heck of a lot of a young Nolan Arenado. Northcut is a wildly athletic defender with one of the best prep hit tools around. Him getting the Vanderbilt seal of approval doesn’t hurt, either. Beyond those three, Hunter Watson (Pottsboro HS, Texas), Cory Acton (American Heritage HS, Florida), Tim Borden (Our Lady of Providence HS, Indiana), and Bryce Bush (De La Salle Collegiate HS, Michigan) all stand out for one reason or another as potential sleeper-ish first round talents.
Watson has plus raw power and, contradictory or not, a pro-ready body with plenty of projection left. Acton’s hit tool is so advanced that I’ve had more than one contact (two is more than one!) wonder aloud if batting titles were in his future. A separate contact predicted Borden would wind up at Louisville and come out the other side as a top ten pick. Finally, Bush’s power and sneaky athleticism — some have him earmarked for first base, but I think he can hang at third or at least an outfield corner — make him a high-priority follow as we enter the spring season. The depth and impact talent at the top of the prep third base class makes it likely that we’ll see more than one of these guys off the board in the first thirty picks or so.
Prediction: Gorman, Northcut
Others: Donovan, Groshans, Watson, Acton, Borden, Bush, Romy Gonzalez (Miami), Kyle Datres (North Carolina), Jordan Verdon (San Diego State), Jonathan India (Florida)
We need four first round shortstops to hit the nine-year mean. I think we get there with room to spare. Two high school players stand out at the top of the class: Brice Turang (Santiago HS, California) and Nander De Sedas (Montverde HS, Florida). Turang has generated some of the most interesting comps of any player in recent memory including Christian Yelich (everybody), Roberto Alomar (Sam Monroy), and Dansby Swanson (BA). I could see his absolute best case scenario looking a little bit like a lefthanded Mookie Betts, though that could have something to do with my subconscious lumping them together because both are excellent amateur bowlers. I’m all in on Turang as a hitter — he makes tons of hard contact (most of the time…), sprays it to all fields, knows how to run hitter-friendly counts and take what the pitcher gives him — but the rest of his game has some catching up to do. I’m fine with bat-first college hitters, but bat-first prep players make me a little nervous. Turang is a good runner, but can he kick his speed up a notch and become a true base stealing threat? His defensive tools have flashed, but will he have the arm strength to consistently make the throw from the deep in the hole at short? Will his swing, body, and approach ever result in enough power to keep pro pitching honest? The fact that there remain so many questions about his game make him something closer to a mid-first round pick than top five guy as we sit here in early October. That’s doesn’t preclude him from rising back up nor is it a knock on where he currently sits — being a mid-first round pick is really good! — but I think the hype on him is a little bit louder than the reality. Or maybe I’m falling into the same pitfalls I’ve accused others of when it comes to Seth Beer. We’ll see.
What is known about De Sedas is really damn exciting: real deal hit tool, plus raw power, rocket arm, plus defensive tools. So much about his profile reminds me of some of the big name shortstops out of Puerto Rico in recent drafts like Correa, Lindor, Baez, and Perez. There’s also the Floridian connection comparison out there with Manny Machado. Heady stuff, I realize, but big comps are the norm (for me, anyway) this early in the draft process. It’s fun to get excited about players, after all. De Sedas’s upside is thrilling, though it is worth acknowledging that his pop-up status — in as much as any player can “pop up” this early in the process — allows him to come out of the early stages of draft evaluation relatively free from the scrutiny that players who have been in the spotlight longer have been up against. Compare him to Turang, a prospect pegged as a potential 1-1 candidate for well over a year now, who has had loads of time on the big stage where evaluators (and wannabes like me) can pick apart the most minute negatives in his game. The longer you’re a prospect, the more holes in your game they’ll try to poke. When you’re new and exciting, you get the benefit of the doubt. It’s just the way things are, fair or not.
With a high degree of confidence that Turang and De Sedas wind up as first round pick, we’re left only searching for two more six-spotters. Xavier Edwards (North Broward Prep, Florida) and Brandon Dieter (South Hills, California) would be my next two personal prep picks to crash the first round party. Edwards is a standout defender with the speed and approach to excel as a leadoff hitter at the highest level. Dieter just flat knows how to hit. There may not have been a player more fun to watch at the plate all summer than him. So good.
Collegiately there are plenty of options, but no sure things. Jeremy Eierman (Missouri State) has the power and speed (above-average to plus, both) to shoot up boards this spring. Cadyn Grenier (Oregon State) brings pedigree and a well-rounded skill set that grows on you the more you see him play. I personally like Ford Proctor (Rice), Richard Palacios (Towson), and Jax Biggers (Arkansas) more than I probably should. Proctor is steady across the board, Palacios has serious speed and flashes considerable power, and Biggers brings an intriguing blend of contact, pop, and patience with at least average defense up the middle defense. It’s a slightly better group at the top than last year with a clear edge in depth. That said, it wouldn’t be a total shock to college shortstops get squeezed out of the first round entirely for the second year in a row. This group could match last year’s one first round pick or it could get shutout like 2016’s class, but it definitely won’t approach the magic of 2015.
Prediction: Turang, De Sedas, Dieter, Eierman
Others: Edwards, Grenier, Proctor, Palacios, Biggers, Turner Brown (East Carolina), Luke Manzo (College of Charleston), Nick Mascelli (Wagner), Reid Leonard (Morehead State), Nico Hoerner (Stanford), Charles Mack (Williamsville East HS, New York), Jeremiah Jackson (St. Luke’s Episcopal HS, Alabama), Kendall Simmons (Tattnall Square Academy, Georgia), Blaze Alexander (Bishop Verot HS, Florida)
HS Outfielders (4)
What this prep outfield class lacks in clear present star power, it more than makes up for it with depth all over the place. It’s early enough in the process that I don’t feel too guilty about having no idea who the top outfielder is or will be in this group. I have my favorites, sure, but I’m glad nobody is forcing me to choose a top guy or five just yet.
Mike Siani (Penn Charter, Pennsylvania) plays his home games a short drive from me, so I’ll be seeing a lot of him this spring. Though I’ve seen him a few times in the past already, I’m still pumped to see the plus throwing, plus running, incredibly athletic center fielder hit and throw and run and pitch and spit seeds and mingle with teammates and just generally do things teenage baseball players do. Jarred Kelenic (Waukesha West HS, Wisconsin) is currently suffering a bit from the same issues Brice Turang is facing: backlash from being nitpicked as one of the draft’s sneaky 1-1 prospects going back over a full year. He’s no less of a player than he was when his prospect stock was at its pick, but his flaws are more magnified now than his many draft peers.
Connor Scott (Plant HS, Florida) saw his profile rise every single time he stepped on the field this past summer. The persistent comparisons to Kyle Tucker (noted by both D1 and PG) paint the picture of a long, lean outfielder who is both a glider in the bases and in the outfield as well as a projectable power hitter. Scott also has legitimate two-way intrigue as a three-pitch power lefthander who flashes an above-average low-80s changeup already. Ryder Green (Knoxville Christian HS, Tennessee) is really good. Watching him makes this pretty clear as he’ll show you three above-average or better tools regularly (power, speed, arm), but, as mentioned with Nick Northcut above, the Vanderbilt stamp of approval doesn’t hurt.
Joe Gray (Hattiesburg HS, Mississippi) might remind you of some of the top prep outfield prospects in recent years. I’m thinking Jordon Adell specifically, though not enough so that I’d use him as a comp just yet. Anyway, like that classic teenage high school prospect archetype we all know and love, Gray has monster raw power, a big arm, and enough quicks to stick in center. The big question for him centers on whether or not he’ll hit enough to make all of his loud tools sing. If he hits, he’s scary. If he doesn’t, he’s still pretty enticing. That’s the nice thing about betting on tools and athleticism. Less toolsy but surer bats include Nick Schnell (Roncalli HS, Indiana) and Nick Decker (Seneca HS, New Jersey). Alek Thomas (Mount Carmel HS, Illinois) is a future plus defender in center with blazing speed and worlds of athleticism. Parker Meadows (Grayson HS, Georgia) lurks as my “sleeper” (note: there’s really no such thing as a sleeper if you follow this stuff as much as we do…and you really can’t be a sleeper when your brother was a recent first round pick anyway) to slip into the draft’s first round. His power and speed combination is at or near the top of this class for any position player. My hunch is that he explodes this spring in a way not entirely dissimilar to what his brother once did, so he takes the fourth and final projected first round spot for now.
Prediction: Kelenic, Scott, Green, Meadows
Others: Siani, Gray, Schnell, Decker, Thomas
College Outfielders (3)
The mean of around three college outfielders per draft since 2009 blows my mind; I would have guessed it would have been significantly higher. Maybe something closer to the range of five to seven. I guess that doesn’t make a ton of logical sense considering the high cost of first round real estate — with only thirty or so spots, getting 10% of that market share for your position isn’t too shabby — but it still feels like college outfielders, a relatively safe investment if recent draft history can be trusted, are underrepresented on draft day. That’s where math comes in handy, right? When things feel a certain way but aren’t actually that way, math is there to open our eyes to what’s real. More surprising than the mean is the fact that the high end of the college outfielder range since 2009 was five…and that was all the way back in 2009. The five back then were Dustin Ackley (1-2), AJ Pollock (1-17), Jared Mitchell (1-23), Brett Jackson (1-31), and Tim Wheeler (1-32). So even the high water mark came in a year where it took the literal last two picks of the round to get there. That class is also a pretty fair representation of why maybe college outfielders aren’t quite as safe as one might think. A quick look…
’09 – Ackley, Pollock, Mitchell, Jackson, Wheeler = one hit, four misses
’10 – Bryce Harper, Michael Choice, Gary Brown, Kyle Parker = one hit, three misses
’11 – George Springer, Mikie Mahtook = one hit, one whatever it is Mahtook is (useful player is fair, I think)
’12 – Tyler Naquin, James Ramsey, Victor Roache = one whatever it is Naquin is (useful player weirdly banished to the minors again), two misses
’13 – Hunter Renfroe, Phillip Ervin, Aaron Judge = one hit, two maybe’s
’14 – Michael Conforto, Bradley Zimmer = one hit, one maybe
’15 – Andrew Benintendi, Ian Happ, DJ Stewart, Christin Stewart – two hits, two maybe’s
Too soon to bother trying to evaluate the last two drafts (and possibly even 2015, but oh well), so that leaves us with seven drafts, twenty-three players, seven hits, five guys in the early stages of the sink-or-swim portions of their careers (Mahtook, Naquin, Renfroe, Ervin, Zimmer), two guys young enough we really don’t know yet (Stewart and Stewart), and nine misses. Without the context of how every other position/class has fared, this data isn’t super useful…but it’s enough for me to argue that college outfielders aren’t as much of a sure-thing (in as much as any draft pick is a “sure-thing”) as I might have first thought. Interesting but probably just a coincidence that there was one hit and one hit only in every year but 2015. Even in the year with five first round outfielders, we only had one hit. Coincidence or not, that’s a little weird.
Anyway, all of that is a long way of saying that I think this year’s class has an outside shot of reaching five college first round picks, especially if some creative bookkeeping (e.g., a player like Seth Beer gets announced as an outfielder and not a first baseman) takes place. The two top guys in this class as of now look like Griffin Conine (Duke) and Travis Swaggerty (South Alabama). Conine’s big sophomore season in the ACC put him on the prospect map, but it was his showing on the Cape that made him a potential star in the eyes of so many. My secret confession: I think performance during summer wood bat leagues, namely the Cape Cod League, are wildly overrated when assessing a player’s overall body of work. They are a piece of the puzzle, clearly, but that’s it. The prestige and romance of playing on the Cape can get normally level-headed baseball prospect writers woozy with hyperbole for each season’s summer league stars. Baseball on the Cape is baseball in its purest form, we hear. They aren’t entirely wrong, but still…gross. There’s a lot of great baseball being played outside of New England that counts just the same in the grand scheme of things. I get that the competition is particularly tough up there, but sometimes all the romanticizing about the whole experience is just too much for me. Maybe I’m just a bad baseball fan. I don’t know.
All that said, I’m willing to ignore my own warnings and go all-in on Conine this year. He’s great not just because of what he did on the Cape, but because of everything that he’s done (including mashing this past summer!) dating back to his prep days. Conine’s body of work is unimpeachable. The fact that we’re talking about a college hitter who doesn’t play an up-the-middle defensive position as a sure-thing first round pick speaks to how much of an impression Conine made on all who saw him these past few months. He’s the modern prototype for what a right fielder should be, a hit over power offensive standout (who also happens to have plus raw power) that takes consistent professional quality at bats and leverages an above-average to plus throwing arm and average to above-average speed to play damn fine defense in a corner. What more could you want?
Well, maybe you want the guy who can do many of the same things as Conine while also manning center field. That’s Swaggerty. It should be noted that the qualifier “many” in that initial sentence is an important one: you’re pretty clearly trading some of Conine’s power for some of Swaggerty’s speed, so pretending as if the two have similar offensive profiles does both young hitters a disservice. Still, Swaggerty, like Conine, is a highly advanced hitter who controls the strike zone like a wily veteran and never wastes an at bat. He doesn’t have quite the same game-changing speed and the two men obviously play different positions (brief foray in the big leagues for our comp notwithstanding), but I see a little bit of Trea Turner in Swaggerty’s game.
The race for the third college outfielder spot is wide open. Greyson Jenista (Wichita State), Tristan Pompey (Kentucky), Alex McKenna (Cal Poly), and Trevor Larnach (Oregon State) are all jostling for the spot. McKenna can make a case for best pure hit tool in the college class. Jenista might be one of the ones who can challenge him. Same with Alfonso Rivas (Arizona) for that matter. Brock Hale (BYU) has mashed for two years, but now it’ll be time for scouts to really start bearing down on him as a hitter to determine how much is real and how much is due to park/league adjusted inflation. I’m buying, but am also glad to have another season to make a more informed decision on what kind of player he really is. Pompey was a big summer away from launching himself into the “no doubt about it” first round stratosphere (i.e., he could have been Griffin Conine if Griffin Conine wasn’t Griffin Conining the Cape Cod League), but things didn’t really work out. He’s still as talented as ever, so the breakout might just happen a few months later than we were hoping. I’m not typically one to get too worked up over a hitter’s swing, but, damn, is Larnach’s stroke aesthetically pleasing. It’s the kind of swing that’s so pretty that you’d find it almost impossible to believe he won’t hit at the pro level.
I’m not sure Carlos Cortes (South Carolina) can mash his way to the first round, but I’m also not sure he can’t. It’s not a comp per se, but there are some shades of Keston Hiura there. Lars Nootbaar (USC) has the name to make him a fan favorite on the internet and the game (above-average raw power, elite athleticism) to make him a fan favorite on the field.
The absence of a clear-cut third guy — and, for the record, you could argue that even the top two are more up for grabs than I’m making it seem and I wouldn’t put up much of a fight — gives me the opportunity to get a little weird with pushing some personal favorites. DJ Artis (Liberty) already got some love around here back when I thought I could write every day while also taking care of a two-month old baby. Artis is a great athlete who can run, defend, and throw…and he has a 114 BB/58 K ratio through two college seasons. I have no idea how pro teams will value him come June, but I love him and would want my favorite team to draft him without hesitation. Same for Andrew Moritz (North Carolina Greensboro), a plus runner who covers loads of ground in center with a damn near ideal approach needed to excel as a leadoff hitter in pro ball. Count me in. Jameson Hannah (Dallas Baptist) is a highly instinctual player in both center and on the base paths. Beyond that, his power (above-average to plus), speed (ditto), and keen understanding of his strengths and weaknesses as a hitter make him one of this year’s most interesting underhyped college bats.
I happened upon Ashton Bardzell (Hartford) one time while he was in high school. I really liked him then. That look (plus all the other information obtained via various means along the way, but let’s pretend it was mostly that look since I’m such an eagle-eye) was enough for me to rank him 204th in his class out of high school. Now I’m patiently waiting for the 2018 Hartford schedule to be announced so I can happen upon him again (this time on purpose…long story on that HS viewing) and run him even higher up the draft rankings this time around. Bardzell is a really impressive athlete with above-average raw power, above-average to plus wheels, an easy plus arm, and solid range in the outfield. I think he has a chance to become a major college star this season and a top three (minimum) round pick. I’d buy up all the imaginary Ashton Bardzell stock with all my imaginary money (just kidding, I have a kid now so even in my wildest imagination I’m broke) if an imaginary baseball draft prospect stock market existed. In fact, let me go on the record real quick…
Prediction: Conine, Swaggerty, Bardzell
Others: Artis, McKenna, Larnach, Nootbaar, Rivas, Pompey, Cortes, Moritz, Hale, Jake McCarthy (Virginia), Jimmy Herron (Duke), Jackson Lueck (Florida State), Josh Stowers (Louisville), Cameron Simmons (Virginia), Robert Neustrom (Iowa), Marty Bechina (Michigan State), Jawuan Harris (Rutgers), Kyler Murray (Oklahoma), Steele Walker (Oklahoma), Tyler Williams (Arizona State), Steven Kwan (Oregon State), DaShawn Keirsey (Utah), Eric Cole (Arkansas), Antoine Duplantis (LSU), Zach Watson (LSU), Diandre Amion (Alabama State), CJ Newsome (Jackson State), Niko Decolati (Loyola Marymount), Kyle Dean (BYU)
High School Pitchers (7)
The draft is still eight months away, so your best bet here is to throw the top thirty or so high school pitching names in a hat, pull out five to ten names (mean is seven), and loudly declare that those will be the first round prep pitching prospects come June. It’s as good a method as any, I think. One name that probably doesn’t deserve the hat is Ethan Hankins (Forsyth Central HS, Georgia), the present and likely future top pitcher in the high school ranks and a real threat to become the first ever prep righthander to go first overall. Hankins is pretty much what you’d get if you programmed the transmogrifier to the “Projectable High School Pitcher” setting and put it on full power. High heat, a weaponized curve, a nascent but interesting change, and a brand new slider because hey why not add a slider…yeah, that’ll work. Player development is non-linear and I know I fall for this trap more often than I should, BUT if Hankins is this good now with his frame, athleticism, work ethic, and aptitude for learning new things then it’s a whole lot of fun to picture where he could be at in two to three years.
Fellow Peach Stater Kumar Rocker (North Oconee HS, Georgia) is more of a fully realized physical specimen. There’s a part of me that looks at Rocker’s massive 6-5, 250 pound defensive end frame and feels some trepidation wondering about how he’ll look three to five years down the line, but that’s a problem for future me to worry about. Present me loves the stuff Rocker already possesses — no projection needed with his fastball/slider, and his change has looked better the more he’s used it (imagine that…) — and is willing to believe that his size won’t be an issue going forward because of his athletic profile and bloodlines. A fun comp I got on Rocker recently: Jimmy Nelson of the Brewers. Lots of time between now and June to make that look silly, but I don’t hate it for now.
Judging on feedback I’ve gotten on this list already, it appears I’m particularly bullish on Austin Becker (Big Walnut HS, Ohio). He’s a Vanderbilt commit (like both Hankins and Rocker) who already shows command of three easy above-average pitches. That alone sounds pretty good to me. His frame and athleticism suggest he could sit in the mid-90s one day, but he might not even need that kind of premium velocity if his breaking ball (above-average already, chance to be plus) and changeup (not ready to put a grade on it, but it’s really good) continue to progress. Matthew Liberatore (Mountain Ridge HS, Arizona) got better every time he took the mound all summer long. In the early days of the site, I used to talk about how much I loved pitchers without big velocity who got by with superior offspeed stuff and great command suddenly growing into velocity and retaining all the other aspects of their game that made them great originally. It’s like when a talented yet normal-sized basketball player with guard skills shoots up to 6’10” in high school. That’s Liberatore. He’s 6’10” now. Not literally, but you get the idea…I hope.
Slade Cecconi (Trinity Prep, Florida) has a one-two punch (mid-90s sinking fastball, 80-85 cut-slider with plus upside) as good as any arm in the class. Carter Stewart (Eau Gallie HS, Florida) throws a curve so good that I’ll be telling my incredibly bored grandkids about the first time I saw it in action. I’ve heard the name Kluber whispered as a possible comp, especially when he has that curve working. I’ve also heard Luke Bartnicki (Walton HS, Georgia) has a stronger than you’d think commitment to Georgia Tech, but there’s no way a pitcher as talented as him (89-95 FB, 79-85 SL, mid-80s CU, everything down) turns down a first day paycheck. I’m totally enamored with Landon Marceaux (Destrehan HS, Louisiana), a pitcher with command beyond his years who reminds me a lot of Aaron Nola for reasons both meaningful and superficial. Fellow LSU commit Jaden Hill (Ashdown HS, Arkansas) has a potentially special changeup and incredible athleticism. Mike Vasil (Boston College HS, Massachusetts) is the best cold-weather pitcher here. You can count on him for three average or better pitches already. JT Ginn (Brandon HS, Mississippi) is the obligatory “reliever delivery, but stuff to start” prospect in the class. There has to be one every year, right? If it doesn’t work out for Ginn as a starter, his fastball/breaking ball combo in short bursts could get him to the big leagues as fast as any prep pitcher here.
I’m running out of angles for the rest of these pitchers, but rest assured that every name mentioned in the “Others” section below is really damn good. This is a legitimately great year for high school pitching. You’ll see first round talents in most years fall a few rounds past that as teams reach for other, shallower positions under the assumption they can still get quality teenage pitching later.
Fun aside: in my copying/pasting haste, I lost all of my notes on every high school pitcher you see listed below from Hankins to Ashcraft. Good work by me. There’s enough time to rebuild between now and June, but, damn, do I hate myself right now.
Prediction: Hankins, Liberatore, Becker, Cecconi, Rocker, Stewart
Others: Bartnicki, Marceaux, Hill, Vasil, Ginn, Cole Winn (Orange Lutheran HS, California), Jonathan Childress (Forney HS, Texas), Ryan Weathers (Loretto HS, Tennessee), Cole Wilcox (Heritage HS, Georgia), Adam Kloffenstein (Magnolia HS, Texas), Mason Denaburg (Merritt Island HS, Florida), Tyler Ras (Middletown North HS, New Jersey), Jack Perkins (Kokomo HS, Indiana), Simeon Woods-Richardson, (Kempner HS, Texas), Braxton Ashcraft (Robinson HS, Texas), Brandon Birdsell (Conroe HS, Texas), Lineras Torres (Beach HS, New York), Jonathan Gates (Nature Coast Tech HS, Florida), Drew Rom (Highlands HS, Kentucky), Bo Blessie (Lee HS, Texas), Dominic Pipken (Pinole Valley HS, California), Garrett Wade (Hartselle HS, Alabama), Angel Tiburcio (Trinity Christian HS, Florida), Seth Halvorsen (Heritage Christian Academy, Minnesota)
College Pitchers (9)
Depending on who you talk to, Logan Gilbert (Stetson) is either a stealth 1-1 contender or a borderline first round pick. Since you’re talking to me (or whatever the writing/reading equivalent is), you’re going to hear about Gilbert as arguably the top current prospect in this draft. One of the patterns I’ve noticed in successful pitching prospects is a common ability to excel at the “little things.” The scare quotes are needed here because a) these aren’t little things at all, and b) for many people, these aren’t even considered little things. When I get asked about pitchers, the questions are almost always the same. How hard does he throw? What’s his breaking ball like? Can he throw an effective changeup? Tell me about his size, his mechanics, his injury history, his track record on the field…that sort of stuff. Little things like deception, extension, and athleticism are often overlooked. Well, that’s not entirely true. Were overlooked is a more fair way of putting it. Athleticism has always been critically important, but it is being talked about (and measured) in different ways today. Same thing with deception and extension, especially with the proliferation of TrackMan data collection and PitchFX and all the other fancy stuff now being used for pitchers as early as middle school (!) these days.
This is all a long way of saying that Gilbert’s “little things” come up huge. He’s a fantastic athlete by any measure. Picking up the ball on him seems like it would be a nightmare. His extension is just silly as opposing hitters have remarked it looks like he’s handing the ball to the catcher at times. As important as all of this stuff is, he wouldn’t be a 1-1 contender if it weren’t for also excelling at the “big things.” Fastball? He’ll sit anywhere from 89-95 and touch 97, but the pitch hops up another full grade because of the ridiculous natural movement he gets on it. Breaking ball? There’s an average 74-80 curve that will flash better and an above-average 79-82 slider that comes in as a plus pitch at times. The two breakers can run together at times — enough so that I know some just call it a hybrid — but I think the two distinct velo bands speak to the differentiation in break of the two. Changeup? I’d like to see more here this spring, but he has one at 82-85 that has looked fine enough in small doses so far. Size, mechanics, injury history, track record? Check, check, check, and check.
So why are some relatively down on Gilbert at this point? It could be that they aren’t weighing those “little things” as heavily as I am. It could also be some risk-aversion when looking at some of the fair concerns hidden in all of the positivity above. Gilbert’s breaking ball (or balls, depending on your view) can be a devastating pitch, but the consistency isn’t there yet. Same thing with the changeup, though that pitch is more of an unknown than anything else. Not having a reliable knockout offspeed pitch is normally enough to disqualify a guy from early first round talk, so what gives with Gilbert’s lofty rating? It’s all about that fastball. I’ve written a lot of words on the guy already, but it really could have just been one: FASTBALL. Gilbert’s fastball is such a dominating pitch that he could throw it almost exclusively and still get through a lineup multiple times. The fact that he has the makings of a really good breaking ball (or balls) and a serviceable change is akin to icing on the cake. Between the way he pitches off the heat, his build, and the way he gets the most of his “little things,” I can see a bit of both Justin Verlander and Jacob DeGrom in him.
Since I’ve used up all my words for the week already, we’ll do our best to be brief with the remaining college arms. There’s zero chance that this will happen after so much time away, but let’s pretend that it’s possible to help preserve my own sanity. One of my big questions heading into the 2018 college season is pretty straightforward: are we really going to get a Friday night rivalry game with Konnor Pilkington (Mississippi State) and Ryan Rolison (Mississippi) head-to-head this season? I’m truly wondering as I have no idea how these teams are planning on setting up their (stacked) rotations, but, man, wouldn’t that be great? Rolison is the bigger current name thanks to his star turn on the Cape this past summer. Turns out that scouts like lefties with above-average velocity (88-94, 95 peak), stellar hybrid breaking balls (a 76-84 offering that takes the best parts of a good slider and a good curve and turns into something special), and command not typically seen at the amateur level. Pilkington is a little less famous…for now. This port-sider has a similar fastball to Rolison, a better present changeup, and a step or so less breaking ball and command. Add it all up and the two are really close. Two additional fun quirks besides their status as bitter college rivals: 1) Rolison, a draft-eligible sophomore, is old for his class, while Pilkington, a typical draft-eligible junior, is young for his class; despite being a year apart in terms of academics, the two are only two months apart in age, and 2) take a peek at what each pitcher did last season…
KP – 9.3 K/9 – 3.9 BB/9 – 3.08 ERA
RR – 9.4 K/9 – 3.5 BB/9 – 3.07 ERA
We’re not exactly entering The Twilight Zone just yet, but that’s at least a little freaky, right? For the record, the two teams square off on April 6 at Mississippi State. Do you think I can convince the wife that Stark Vegas is an appropriate place for the baby’s first real vacation?
Casey Mize (Auburn) is awesome and maybe a tad overlooked because Auburn isn’t quite Florida or Vanderbilt or Mississippi State, but I’d put his mid-80s split-change up against any offspeed pitch in this class. Mize vs Pilkington or Rolison or Singer would be a pretty nice consolation prize if I can’t sneak my way into the baseball version of the Egg Bowl. In any event, it’s worth noting that Mize put up the best sophomore season (11.7 K/9 and 1.0 BB/9 leading to a 2.04 ERA in 83.2 IP) of any of this year’s top college pitchers. When stuff like his converges with major on-field success, you’re looking at a clear top of the first round talent. Health permitting, naturally.
Speaking of health, Shane McClanahan (South Florida) has a few red flags he can’t help — Tommy John surgery already under his belt and a lack of ideal size (6-1, 175 pounds) — so he might be a little scary for some, but the payoff (mid-90s heat, nasty upper-70s slider, solid mid-80s change) is worth rolling the dice. I loved Blaine Knight (Arkansas) last year. Nothing has changed to make me love him any less. His frame screams projection and, at his best, his stuff is ace-caliber.
Brady Singer (Florida) is the people’s favorite for 1-1 among my quick and dirty random sampling of the Top Five Pick Internet. I get it. Between comparisons by the Florida coaching staff (via D1 and BA) to Aaron Nola, a Cape Cod League coach comparing him to Jeff Hoffman (per MLB.com), and the out of left field but great comp by Brett Myers (!) to Kevin Brown, there’s a ton of support for Singer having a long, successful pro career by those who have seen him up close. No argument from me. As those disparate comps might suggest, Singer fits so many different pitcher archetypes that he’s hard to pin down as a prospect. He’s got the plus command to make you think that’s how he gets by (like the prospect version of Nola). But then he shows a big fastball (up to 97) with a power breaking ball (77-83), so you’re thinking power pitcher (a la Hoffman). Finally he starts using his explosive sinker to get ground ball outs (hence the evocation of Brown). One name that I’ve heard is the now fully realized version of Charlie Morton. Isn’t it wild that drafting Charlie Morton 2.0 with the first pick in a really good draft doesn’t sound crazy?
Singer’s Gator teammate Jackson Kowar (Florida) isn’t quite the same finished product, but the upside might be a half-step higher. When he’s rolling, Kowar will show three true plus pitches: a 90-95 FB (97 peak) that dances, a filthy 81-86 split-change, and an 82-84 slider. His reacclimation to a starter’s workload last season came with a few hiccups, but if he can put it all together in 2018…damn. Much of the same can be said for Jason Bilous (Coastal Carolina), though his main performance issue is (and always has been, if we’re being honest) control. This is in no way a comparison of abilities, but a guy like Bilous reminds me of Michael Cederoth from San Diego State a few years back.
I did a mock draft for 2014 just days after the 2013 draft concluded with Cederoth, the hard throwing but wild reliever poised to make the full-time switch to the rotation, in the two spot. The rest of the list was pretty solid including Trea Turner at three, Carlos Rodon at four, Kyle Schwarber at 8, and on and on and on (plus some bad misses or TBD picks like Touki Toussaint at one, Gareth Morgan at fifteen, and Karsten Whitson at sixteen). Anyway, Cederoth wasn’t the second best player in his class a full year ahead of the draft. Nobody would have argued that. But the perfect world outcome of Cederoth? Now that’s a different story. I feel similarly about Bilous. His best-case outcome is a top five pick; that’s where his talent (like Kowar, a potential three plus pitch starter) pushes him. But his red flags — scattered command and control, Tommy John surgery in the rear-view — and the persistent on-field inconsistencies could knock him down to the same area (third round) where Cederoth was eventually picked. Generally speaking, putting players like this high up on draft rankings early in the process is a smart move. It’s different, but justifiable. It also has a massive payout if you’re right…and if you’re wrong, as I was with Cederoth, it’s easy to sweep under the rug by never bringing it up again. Except when you bring it up on your own three years later. Don’t do that.
Prediction: Gilbert, Mize, Singer, McClanahan, Kowar, Bilous, Pilkington, Rolison
Others: Knight, Tim Cate (Connecticut), Kris Bubic (Stanford), Adam Hill (South Carolina), Colton Eastman (Cal State Fullerton), Austin Bergner (North Carolina), Tarik Skubal (Seattle), Tristan Beck (Stanford), Bryce Tucker (Central Florida), Ryan Feltner (Ohio State), Jensen Elliott (Oklahoma State), Durbin Feltman (TCU), Steven Gingery (Texas Tech), Davis Martin (Texas Tech), Kyle Molnar (UCLA), Tanner Dodson (California), Matt Mercer (Oregon), Nick Sprengel (San Diego), Brooks Crawford (Clemson), Tyler Holton (Florida State), Andrew Cabezas (Miami), Greg Veliz (Miami), Griffin Roberts (Wake Forest), Jackson Goddard (Kansas), Michael Grove (West Virginia), Jack DeGroat (Liberty), Brett Conine (Cal State Fullerton), Noah Davis (UC Santa Barbara), John Rooney (Hofstra), Alex Royalty (UNC Wilmington), Dylan Coleman (Missouri State), Cody Deason (Arizona), Jonathan Olsen (UCLA), Justin Hooper (UCLA), Evan Lee (Arkansas), Davis Daniel (Auburn), Ryan Avidano (Georgia), Kevin Smith (Georgia), Justin Lewis (Kentucky), Sean Hjelle (Kentucky), Christopher Machamer (Kentucky), Zack Hess (LSU), Dallas Woolfork (Mississippi), James McArthur (Mississippi), Zach Linginfelter (Tennessee), Stephen Kolek (Texas A&M), Hogan Harris (Louisiana), Nick Lee (Louisiana), Josiah Gray (Le Moyne)
So now we have our player pool based on a combination of math that isn’t really predictive (unless it is!), my subjective list of the best 2018 draft prospects, and the freshly minted 2018 MLB Draft order. The last minor faux-scientific move is to look at who goes where. I don’t have have the patience to go beyond the top ten, but here’s what I found. These are the demographic groups that have had more than one player selected in each spot in the top five since 2009…
1.1 – College pitcher and HS shortstop
1.2 – HS pitcher and college third baseman
1.3 – College pitcher and HS pitcher and HS shortstop
1.4 – HS pitcher and college pitcher and college catcher
1.5 – College pitcher and HS outfielder
We’ll follow those rules with the one little exception of 1-2…but at least we kept it as a college infielder. If we expand the view for picks six through ten, we see that these are the five demographic groups represented more than three times total in that six to ten range since 2009…
College outfielder, HS pitcher, HS outfielder, college outfielder, HS shortstop
Using all of that, we wind up with this…
1-1 Detroit – RHP Logan Gilbert
1-2 San Francisco – 2B/SS Nick Madrigal
1-3 Philadelphia – RHP Brady Singer
1-4 White Sox – RHP Ethan Hankins
1-5 Cincinnati – LHP Ryan Rolison
1-6 Mets – OF Griffin Conine
1-7 San Diego – SS Nander De Sedas
1-8 Atlanta – LHP Matthew Liberatore
1-9 Oakland – OF Jarred Kelenic
1-10 Pittsburgh – RHP Casey Mize
1-11 Baltimore – RHP Kumar Rocker
1-12 Toronto – SS Brice Turang
1-13 Miami – RHP Austin Becker
1-14 Seattle – 3B Nolan Gorman
1-15 Texas – RHP Slade Cecconi
1-16 Tampa Bay – C Will Banfield
1-17 Angels – OF Parker Meadows
18 Kansas City – 1B Seth Beer
19 St. Louis – OF Ryder Green
20 Minnesota – LHP Shane McClanahan
21 Milwaukee – OF Connor Scott
22 Colorado – OF Travis Swaggerty
23 N.Y. Yankees – RHP Ethan Stewart
24 Chicago Cubs – RHP Jason Bilous
25 Arizona – RHP Jackson Kowar
26 Boston – SS Jeremy Eierman
27 Washington – LHP Konnor Pilkington
28 Houston – 3B Nick Northcut
29 Cleveland – SS Brandon Dieter
30 L.A. Dodgers – OF Ashton Bardzell
…and we’ll skip an unknown pick (31, team TBD) to throw in Tampa’s comp selection for being unable to come to terms with Drew Rasmussen.
31 – Tampa – C Cal Raleigh
Yes, the Rays are doubling up on catchers. No, this mock draft isn’t nearly as scientific as we’re making it out to be. But it’s fun. As importantly, hopefully the avalanche of words above have provided a little more clarity on what makes the players in this year’s draft so exciting.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.