Our breakdown of the 2018 draft began with a recap of the National League’s most notable picks, so it’s now time to examine — you guessed it — the American League.
The Orioles started their draft with a prep arm for the second year in a row, taking Grayson Rodriguez (1), a big right-hander from East Texas who has reached up to 97 mph and has the makings of two plus breaking balls. His changeup remains a work in progress, but he has been trying to throw it more. He’s already starter size, but with some effort in the delivery there’s at least a little risk he ends up in the bullpen. Cadyn Grenier (2) was one of the top college shortstops in the class, a fringe first-round talent out of high school who had a breakout year for Oregon State in the spring, hitting .335/.420/.477 and playing shortstop well enough to project to plus on defense. I’m probably being stubborn, but I think there’s still more upside left in his bat as well, both to hit and to show average power. Arkansas starter Blaine Knight (3) will touch the mid-90s and throws strikes with four pitches but has been homer-prone, and the lack of a true plus pitch makes him more fourth/fifth starter material. He turns 22 later this month, and I would hope he’s a fast mover given his control and age.
Prep lefty Drew Rom (4) came on at the end of the spring, sitting in the low 90s with a solid-average breaking ball and an athletic body with some projection and a delivery that works. Iowa outfielder Robert Neustrom (5) has a big, strong power bat, showing power even the other way. He’s a below-average runner who’ll start in right but could end up in left. Yeankarlos Lleras (6) is a smaller right-hander with a fast arm who bumped 96 mph at the end of the spring and flashed a real slider.
Central Florida right-hander J.J. Montgomery (7) was in and out of roles all spring but showed well against top bats like the two Day 1 Wichita State hitters. He’s been up to 98 mph with a good slider and could move fast as a short reliever. Ryan Conroy (8) of Elon is an interesting pick for that late in the draft; he has plus life on his fastball, a slider up to 87 mph and even throws a splitter, but he didn’t miss as many bats as you’d expect from that repertoire. The 6-foot-3 right-hander made 14 starts for Elon, but perhaps moving to relief will help him rack up more strikeouts.
Boston Red Sox
Florida prep first baseman Triston Casas (1) has been on the showcase circuit for years and played at American Heritage, one of the best high school programs in the country (producing first-rounders Eric Hosmer, Deven Marrero and Zack Collins), and has always shown good feel to hit. He’s big enough for power, but his swing is more geared toward hard contact — if he ends up with 30-homer power it’ll be of the Paul Goldschmidt variety, line drives hit so hard they still leave the park. He’s a fringy defender at first but good enough to stay there as long as he hits as expected.
Nick Decker (2) is a left-handed-hitting outfielder from southern New Jersey who has plus raw power but was pitched around a lot this spring. He’s listed at 6 feet, 200 pounds but looks shorter and wider than that and has a plus arm (and a decent high school breaking ball too). His upside is an everyday right fielder with 25 to 30 homers and a solid OBP. Durbin Feltman (3) struck out 46 percent of the batters he faced this spring as TCU’s closer, pitching at 96-99 mph with a slider at 86-89 and a max-effort, almost comical delivery. He’s the type of guy you draft with the intention of moving him fast while his stuff is still at this peak level.
Kentucky catcher Kole Cottam (4) has plus power with great rotation in his swing along with some swing-and-miss. He’s an adequate receiver but on the big side for the position. Central Florida right-hander Thad Ward (5) is a pure reliever, 91-93 mph with a tight mid-80s slider.
Devlin Granberg (6) hit a comical .442/.541/.680 this spring for Dallas Baptist with 26 steals in 27 attempts, and he is indeed a plus runner. His swing has a short path to the ball without a lot of loft for power. Second baseman Jarren Duran (7) is a little slap hitter with some speed, although he did lead Long Beach State in home runs … with two.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox were college-heavy as usual, taking eight college players in their first 10 picks.
Oregon State second baseman Nick Madrigal (1) missed about two months this spring with a broken wrist but did hit consistently when he did play, rarely striking out, though showing no power. He was bumped to second base by Cadyn Grenier and probably won’t be a shortstop in the long run. His floor is extremely high — as long as he’s healthy, he will hit enough to see the majors — but his ceiling, as a likely second baseman without power, is somewhat limited.
Oklahoma outfielder Steele Walker (2) has hit for average everywhere he has played — the last two years for OU, one summer in the Northwoods League, one summer with Team USA — and could end up an everyday player in an outfield corner on that basis, with middling power and limited defensive value. Lefty Konnor Pilkington (3) could have been a first-rounder with a strong spring, but his velocity kept slipping and he was just in the mid-80s by the end of his disastrous regionals start, which may be how the White Sox could get him in the third round. He’s a command guy who had touched the low 90s.
Prep shortstop Lency Delgado (4) has a big frame and could outgrow the position, although he moves well right now and has the arm strength to stay at short. He has loose hands but poor bat control, although I can see how he might start hitting the ball a long way when he gets it all synced up. Indiana University right-hander Jonathan Stiever (5) is a sinker-baller who gets ground balls and throws a solid-average spike curveball with a below-average changeup. He doesn’t have a real out pitch and profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter if the changeup gets close to average and a righty reliever if not. Gunnar Troutwine (9) is an interesting senior sign, as the Wichita State catcher is rough behind the plate but has some pop and not a bad swing.
Noah Naylor (1) was one of my favorite picks of the first round, my 14th-ranked player, taken at pick 29. The younger brother of Padres farmhand Josh Naylor, Noah has played several positions as an amateur, catching at the Under Armour game last summer. He’s not a catcher, but he has looked very good at third base and could certainly play second base if needed. Noah doesn’t have Josh’s raw power, but he is a better player in other ways — he’s a better athlete, better runner and has a great swing, keeping his head steady and rotating his hips well to at least drive the ball. I think he’s an above-average regular at third or second, maybe more once he gets to stay at one position and work on his defense there full time.
Prep right-hander Ethan Hankins (1A) was my preseason No. 1 draft prospect but got hurt in his first start of the season, missing about a month with a sore shoulder. He returned to make several short starts for his prep team but pitched with slightly reduced stuff, still working 90-95 mph, but with no power to his breaking ball. Hankins’ delivery is abrupt with a short stride, which is not great for shoulder health, but now Cleveland can try to lengthen his stride toward the plate while bringing him back to 100 percent arm strength.
Right-hander Lenny Torres (1A) was one of the youngest players in the draft class — he doesn’t turn 18 until October — but has one of its fastest arms. I saw him hit 97, striking out 14 of 17 batters he faced in a high school game in upstate New York, with some feel for a curveball, below-average command and control and no changeup to speak of — not that he needed anything but velocity to get through the opposing lineup. He has midrotation upside or more, but if he never gets his command or breaking ball to a point where he can start, he looks like a potential late-game reliever à la Dellin Betances.
Nick Sandlin (2) had an unbelievable year as a starter for Southern Miss, but he’s a true sidearmer with a violent delivery — like Tyler Danish but rougher — and there’s nobody starting in the majors who looks anything like this. The only major league starter I can think of in the past decade who came from a slot this low was Justin Masterson, who had brief spells of success that alternated with stretches when he couldn’t get left-handed hitters out. I’m assuming this is an under-slot deal to help pay for Hankins and/or Torres.
Richie Palacios (3) led a bad Towson team in pretty much every category, including the three triple-slash stats — homers, steals, walks — and strikeout rate (just 6.2 percent). He’s probably moving off shortstop because his arm is short, and I’m not sure how well he’ll hit pro pitching with a deep load and very soft front side; those college home runs might become popups with a wood bat and better pitching. Prep shortstop Raynel Delgado (6) will end up at second base, but he has real power, especially from the left side, with excellent hip rotation. A somewhat disappointing spring hurt his stock, but he’d be better off going pro than attending Florida International in the fall. Sandlin wasn’t Cleveland’s only low arm-slot pick. Robert Broom (10) of Mercer is a true submariner.
The Tigers picked first and they took the best guy, Auburn right-hander Casey Mize (1), easily the top talent in the class. Mize throws 92-96 mph with plus command, has a grade 70 splitter, a grade 60 cutter and will even throw a slider and a straight changeup. He walked 12 guys with 151 strikeouts in 109? innings across 16 starts for Auburn, including a no-hitter in March and a 15-strikeout game in early May. Mize is a little slight of build, but he has never had a significant arm injury, and his arm works more than well enough to project him as a starter. As long as he stays healthy, he’s a future ace.
After Mize, however, they didn’t really target any potential over-slot guys or try to spread money around. Outfielder Parker Meadows (2), the younger brother of Pirates outfielder Austin, has plus bat speed, is an above-average runner and has an above-average arm, but he lacks Austin’s power potential and has a significant hitch in his swing that may hurt his ability to make contact.
Kody Clemens (3) is, indeed, the son of Roger but is a hitter like brother Kacy. Kody had an out-of-nowhere 21 home runs this spring for the Longhorns after hitting just 10 in his first two years combined. It’s hard to see that power given his grooved swing and soft front side — if anything, I’d guess the left-hander would hit for some average but hook a lot of balls into the first-base stands. His arm strength is down since Tommy John surgery and he’s limited to the right side of the infield, with the hope that he can handle second base.
Kingston Liniak (4) is at least a 60 runner and can handle center field defensively, with arm strength for any outfield spot. At the plate, he’s still underdeveloped and tends to collapse his back side a little to try to generate power from his slight build. His uncle Cole was a seventh-round pick of the Red Sox in 1995 and got a cup of coffee with the Cubs. Adam Wolf (5) is a lefty finesse guy with a mid-80s cutter that he uses as his main out pitch. He might be a back-end starter but more likely falls a little short.
Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, had just four drafted players in the program’s history, the last in 2001, but this year the school had two, including Hugh Smith (6), a tall right-handed starter who throws 91-94 mph with a solid changeup, below-average breaking ball and a severely crossbody delivery. Tarik Skubal (9) throws in the upper 90s but does not often throw the ball over the plate. He’s a redshirt junior who missed 2017, his first draft year, after Tommy John surgery.
The Astros have hit it big with high school players — Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and top prospects Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley — so it was a bit of a surprise to see them go so conservative this year, with one high school player in the first 34 rounds. (Their 35th pick was Alex Bregman’s little brother, A.J.) They gutted their amateur scouting staff after last season and chose to scout fewer players, using internal models to determine which players to see and consider for the draft.
Seth Beer (1) was … I can’t believe I’m saying this … a Moneyball kind of pick in the derogatory sense — he’s a walks and power guy with no defensive value. He’s almost certainly a DH; he hit just .301 this year, but he drew 54 walks and hit 22 homers for Clemson. The fear is that he’s Jack Cust, but the power is legitimate enough that I thought he was worth a top-40 pick.
Jayson Schroeder (2) is a 6-foot-or-a-little-more right-hander who’s been up to 94 mph, shows promise with his slider and has a mid-70s curveball that’s behind the slider right now, but he doesn’t have as much projection as most prep arms. Jeremy Pena (3) is a potential plus defender at shortstop with a short swing and possible doubles power. But he hasn’t hit very well even in a bad conference, just .308/.393/.469.
Alex McKenna (4) is the sleeper of this class for me, a regular as long as he stays in center field. He’s a 50-55 runner and has good bat-to-ball skills, but I do wish he walked more to profile more as a top-of-the-lineup bat. Arizona starter Cody Deason (5), another pitcher overused by the Wildcats, has three average-ish pitches but nothing above, and he profiles as a middle reliever. R.J. Freure (6) throws 93-96 mph with a hard slurve at 79-81. He punched out 37 percent of opposing batters as Pitt’s closer for most of the spring but also walked 13 percent of them and has a ways to go before he approaches even adequate control. Austin Hansen (8) is a fastball/slider reliever who’s been up to 96 mph and had a very good year as Oklahoma’s closer.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals’ system is pretty light on pitching — or was, at least, before Monday, when Kansas City led off its draft with five straight college starters. Brady Singer (1) and Jackson Kowar (1A) were both in Florida’s rotation. Singer went first, although I like Kowar a little more as a long-term starter. Singer is a low-slot guy who has hit 95 mph but often pitches at 90-92 and can get some good tilt on his slider, but he lacks a good pitch for left-handed batters. He throws strikes and competes his tail off with a great track record in the SEC. Kowar looks more like a starter, even with some funk in the arm swing, and when he’s right, he’ll touch 96 mph with a 70 changeup but a fringy breaking ball. His stuff started to slip later in the spring, however, while Singer’s didn’t.
Daniel Lynch (1A) came on as the season progressed, making perhaps his best start of the year at the ACC tournament for Virginia (with Royals GM Dayton Moore and several of his top lieutenants in the house), reaching 95 several times with an average changeup and above-average slider. His delivery is good — no Charlottesville Crouch — and his body may still have some projection left. He absolutely should be a back-end starter, with midrotation or better upside.
Stanford lefty Kris Bubic (1A) will touch 95 with a plus changeup, although there’s some question about his ability to start because he doesn’t hold his velocity well. He does show very good command for a 21-year-old. Stanford has had trouble producing quality big leaguers, with just one good major league starter (Jeremy Guthrie) drafted from Stanford in the past 25 years. Memphis right-hander Jonathan Bowlan (2) is built like a starter, with two above-average pitches in a 93-96 mph fastball and hard slider. To keep him in that role, the Royals may have to get him to use his legs more in his delivery and reduce his reliance on that slider that stemmed from the pitch-calling of the Memphis coaches.
UNLV outfielder Kyle Isbel (3) was a great value on Day 2, a power/speed outfielder who now plays center. He might move to a corner but projects to hit for average with 15 to 20 homers as long as he keeps from overrotating at the plate. Arkansas outfielder Eric Cole (4) is an average runner who probably ends up in a corner. He’s a switch-hitter with some pop on both sides and may still profile as a regular in right or left. Mercer lefty Austin Cox (5) has a big arm, up to 96, but his command and breaking ball are both below average. He does have a third pitch to try to start, at least in the short term.
Zach Haake (6) was on my top 100 at one point but suffered the Kentucky Forearm Strain and was shut down. He had reached 97 mph with a wipeout slider but somehow managed an 8.47 ERA in 34 innings this spring. (The “somehow” may be related to allowing nine home runs. I don’t know for sure, but they seem like they might be connected.) I don’t know the Royals’ plans, but once he gets healthy, he might thrive in a relief role in which he can throw those two pitches and not worry about turning a lineup over.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels went all-in on their first two picks, both high-ceiling high school players. Center fielder Jordyn Adams (1) was a two-sport commit to North Carolina, where his father is the defensive line coach, but will now do the right thing and play baseball full time. He’s an 80 runner with a short, quick swing that should produce hard contact to all fields, although any power is all projection at this point and his swing isn’t geared toward that. He has played much less baseball than most other high school players in this draft, having spent summers preparing for football and only emerged as a top prospect with a breakout weekend at USA Baseball’s NHSI tournament in March.
Alabama shortstop Jeremiah Jackson (2) was a steal at pick 57, one of the best high school middle infielders in the class with potential upside on both sides of the ball. He’s a plus athlete with good range at short and plenty of arm for the position; he’s also at least a 60 runner, showed a good eye this spring against bad competition and should at least get to 45 power with the potential for more. I thought he was a first-round talent and assume this will be well over slot.
Aaron Hernandez (3) is up to 95 mph with a power slider from a very high-effort delivery with below-average command, likely putting him in a long-term relief role. (If you think his name is tough, he had a teammate at Texas A&M Corpus Christi named Itchy Burts.)
Kyle Bradish (4) sits in the mid-90s from a high arm slot, posting incredible numbers in a brutal pitching environment at New Mexico State, with a near-certain relief future due to the effort in his delivery. William English (5) was one of the youngest players in the draft class — he doesn’t turn 18 until December — and has quite a bit of projection with good spin on a curveball, but he has some effort and stiffness to his delivery with a hard landing from a short stride. The Angels took college seniors in Rounds 6 through 10, likely to help go over slot for their first two picks.
Oregon State outfielder Trevor Larnach (1) hit .327/.455/.626 with a 20 percent strikeout rate, hitting nearly a third of the Beavers’ total home runs this spring. He’s a well-below-average runner who’ll be limited to left field, and scouts questioned whether he could pull the ball consistently, as most of his power was to the opposite field (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself). His lack of defensive or positional value made him something of a reach for me at the 20th overall pick.
UNC-Wilmington catcher Ryan Jeffers (2) split scouts on whether he could stay behind the plate, but if he does, he has an above-average ceiling due to his bat, with above-average power and an excellent eye. His arm is fine for the position and any questions concern his receiving and agility. He looks like he’ll hit enough that even borderline defense would make him a regular.
Utah outfielder DaShawn Keirsey (4) had a serious hip injury in May 2017 and came back as more of a plus runner than a burner while still showing some doubles power but little to no patience at the plate. He looks like a tweener, not a true center fielder, not quite having the power for an outfield corner.
Cole Sands (5) left his last start of the season with shoulder soreness after missing time for biceps tendinitis (often code for shoulder soreness) in April. The younger brother of Cubs minor leaguer Carson Sands, Cole has been up to 94 mph with three pitches, but between a 4.54 ERA this year and two bouts of arm trouble, it’s not clear what the Twins are buying here.
Prep slugger Charles Mack (6) is a shortstop in name only who’ll probably end up in an outfield corner. He muscled up this past offseason and has plus raw power to his pull side, with a slight bat wrap and big finish that might inhibit him from using the whole field. Mississippi prep right-hander Regi Grace (10), a Mississippi State commit, has a loose arm and projectable body with some life on his upper-80s fastball and OK spin on a breaking ball. He’s probably a two-year rookie ball guy until his velocity ticks up.
New York Yankees
The Yankees led off their draft with two catchers, one from high school and one from junior college, which, no, I don’t think means anything specific about the future of Gary Sanchez. Anthony Seigler (1) is a switch-hitting, switch-pitching catcher from Cartersville, Georgia, out of the same high school that gifted Donavan Tate to the baseball world. Seigler was the best prep catcher in the class, with a plus arm, good receiving skills and solid swings from both sides of the plate. His power is below average, although it could come in time. Prep catchers are incredibly risky as a class, but bearing that in mind, Seigler projects as an everyday catcher with All-Star upside.
Josh Breaux (2) is the juco catcher I mentioned and missed a little time this spring with elbow trouble. He’s a bat-first prospect with power upside but a below-average receiver who does have arm strength when healthy. He may simply hit enough that the receiving question fades into the background. Ryder Green (3) has posted some huge exit velocity numbers, so it makes sense that the Yanks would be on him. His swing is long thanks to a deep load, and he’s an above-average runner who’ll probably move to an outfield corner in the long run. He’s committed to Vanderbilt.
North Florida right-hander Frank German (4) works with a fastball at 90-96 mph that had very good TrackMan attributes and an average slider, and he never walks anyone, with just 14 free passes in 91? innings this spring (4 percent of total batters faced). He missed the fall with elbow soreness. Troy center fielder Brandon Lockridge (5) has a huge hitch and swings like he’s holding a hatchet. He’s a plus-plus runner who stole 25 bases in 28 attempts this spring, certainly running well enough for center, but that swing and some mediocre results at school point toward an extra OF ceiling. UNC right-hander Rodney Hutchison (6) is a sidearmer and potential righty specialist, touching 91 and sweeping two kinds of breaking balls away from right-handed batters. The Yanks took college seniors with their next four picks, as Green in particular is probably an over-slot deal in the third.
The A’s stole the show on draft night by taking Kyler Murray (1) with the ninth overall pick, and as soon as he’s done getting his brains scrambled on the gridiron, he might end up an All-Star center fielder in the majors. Murray is a plus-plus runner who really took to center field after playing shortstop in high school, and he has a good, simple swing for hard contact, albeit without much power now or in the future. He did strike out too often this spring, in a quarter of his plate appearances, but had less than 100 at-bats total in the preceding three years while he focused on football. Your future is in baseball, Kyler. Embrace it.
Jameson Hannah (2) is a left-handed hitting outfielder and plus runner with below-average power, with a one-piece swing that generates contact but doesn’t really let him drive the ball. He might still end up a regular due to his speed/contact combination. Jeremy Eierman (2A) has first-round tools and may end up staying at shortstop, but the swing-and-miss this spring killed his draft stock. He’s a power/speed guy at the plate but punched out twice as often as he walked, and he did so against relatively weak competition in the Missouri Valley Conference. Lefty Hogan Harris (3) throws 90-94 mph with an average curveball, getting on top of the ball well from a three-quarters-plus slot, but he has had trouble throwing strikes and staying healthy, with just 58 innings this year over 11 starts for the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Arizona first baseman Alfonso Rivas (4) was a surprise pick, as he hasn’t shown power (even in Tucson, a decent place to hit) and strikes out too often to profile at that position. Lawrence Butler (6), a West Virginia commit, is a strong but crude high school first baseman with offensive upside, probably a two-year rookie ball guy after he signs. The A’s took Florida catcher J.J. Schwarz (8), one of the more intriguing seniors in the draft class, a year after he was so bad he fell to the 38th round. Schwarz has power and can probably catch and throw well enough to be a backup. If he has to move to first base, where he was atrocious when he played there in 2017, then he’s probably an org guy. Chase Cohen (9) has a plus fastball with below-average command and control; the Georgia Southern swingman profiles as a reliever in pro ball.
The Mariners went college heavy, as is standard for any team helmed by GM Jerry Dipoto. Stetson right-hander Logan Gilbert (1) was headed for a top-10 pick, maybe top five, after a 2017 summer campaign in which he regularly hit 95 mph with huge extension and above-average command. He worked all spring at more like 89-92, still spun a decent curveball and still filled up the zone with strikes, but it wasn’t what teams expected of him after his Cape Cod showing, which allowed the Mariners to grab the future starter at pick 14. His ceiling may be limited, but he seems like a no-doubt starter, even if it’s just as a fourth or fifth guy.
Louisville outfielder Josh Stowers (2) is a 60-70 runner who led the Cardinals in homers this year. He has just fair bat speed and his power is more average, so he’ll have to improve his defense in center to end up a long-term regular. Cal Raleigh (3) is an offensive catcher with a plus arm, capable enough behind the plate to stay there, showing big-time power and patience at the plate, enough that I think he has a chance to be a regular unless his framing turns out to be much worse than anyone realizes. Missouri’s Michael Plassmeyer (4) is a command lefty, throwing in the upper 80s with some life to his pitches and a big breaking ball in the 78-80 mph range, walking just 4.5 percent of batters he faced this spring and keeping the ball in the park. He looks like a potential fifth starter. Nolan Hoffman (5) is a sidearm right-hander who can get up to 92. He’s a specialist reliever if it works out.
Joey O’Brien (6) was a two-way star for the College of Southern Nevada, leading the team in every offensive statistic while also making nine starts and eight relief appearances. The Mariners took him as a pitcher; he has a short delivery and is up to 93-94 mph with a hard changeup on which he shows very good arm speed. Illinois closer Joey Gerber (8) is a pure reliever, 95-97 with a delivery that breaks the laws of thermodynamics by somehow requiring more effort than “max effort.” The Mariners didn’t take a high school player until Day 3, when they selected local right-hander Damon Casetta-Stubbs (11), a 6-foot-4 sinker/slider pitcher who’ll flash above average with both pitches and already has good feel at age 18. I am assuming they have a deal in place with him, since he was their first pick of Day 3.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays may have gotten Day 1’s best bargain when Matthew Liberatore (1), my No. 3 prospect in the class, was still available for them at No. 16. The Arizona prep lefty hit 97 mph earlier this spring but really pitches more at 90-94, showing good spin on his curveball, feel for a changeup and good command for an 18-year-old pitcher. He’s 6-foot-5 and still projectable, so he may eventually pitch more in the mid-90s. The only knock I had on him this spring was that he was too quick to the plate from the stretch, a problem easily remedied.
Shane McClanahan (1A) has been up to 99 from the left side but had a miserable second half to his spring, as hitters caught up to his fairly straight fastball, and he doesn’t have a good second pitch to go with it. His slot is a little low, and he may be better suited to a relief role. Prep outfielder Nick Schnell (1A) has big power and above-average speed — with that name, he’d better — but bars his lead arm, which is often a problem for hitters in terms of making contact and leaves them vulnerable to stuff inside.
FAU’s Tyler Frank (2) is a 6-foot (which may be generous) shortstop with good hands and above-average arm strength but limited range due to below-average speed. At the plate he has raked for two years for the Owls, but he tries to loft the ball too much, which has produced 24 homers the past two springs and may cost him contact in pro ball.
Tanner Dodson (2A) will go out as a two-way player, both pitching and playing center field. His future is brighter on the mound, where he has been up to 98 mph with a plus slider, earning some comparisons to Michael Lorenzen (who threw harder but didn’t have Dodson’s breaking ball). As a position player, he can defend in center, but he lacks power or OBP skills to profile as a regular there. Still, two-way players are fun and we should have more of them in the minors.
Ford Proctor (3) played shortstop for Rice but projects as a potential everyday second baseman who has some on-base skills but no power. He has a good, simple left-handed swing, enough that he really shouldn’t have led the Owls this spring in strikeouts. Grant Witherspoon (4) led the Tulane Green Wave in everything important this year, and his speed/power combo might make him a regular in center field as long as he can make enough good contact. He has good hip rotation in his swing, but a soft front side means he’ll hook and/or pop up a lot of balls he could send the other way.
I believe that Georgia prep pitcher/catcher Taj Bradley (5) might be the first player born in 2001 to be drafted; he won’t turn 18 until March, which … let’s just stop talking now, shall we? He’s projectable — I mean, he ought to be, since he’s the age of a high school junior — and throws 88-94 mph now with a little effort, some downhill plane, a good frame and a low-70s curveball that he spins all right. His command and control are below average as you might expect given his age.
Right-hander Miller Hogan (6) works with average stuff but had an outstanding year for the St. Louis Billikens, walking just 14 in 105 innings with 133 strikeouts. Right-hander Nick Lee (9), on the other hand, had a 5.07 ERA for the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette, with mediocre peripherals. He’s up to 93 with a max-effort delivery, long arm swing and very high slot. He’s also still projectable, 6-foot-5 but maybe 200 pounds. Teams seldom take college players with the idea of altering or reworking their deliveries, but Lee would be a perfect candidate for that — he has size and arm strength, but his mechanics work against him.
Cole Winn (1) was the best command guy among top prep pitchers in this draft class, getting up to 94 mph regularly along with two breaking balls, showing he could throw all three pitches for strikes with a simple delivery he repeats well. I’m hopeful he’s a fast mover even for a teenager because of his feel for pitching and repertoire. North Carolina right-hander Owen White (2) is a projection guy, 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, already up to 93 with good life on his four-seamer, some feel for a breaking ball and a delivery that the Rangers should be able to refine to get him more velocity and better command.
Arizona prep shortstop Jonathan Ornelas (3) may not stay at the position long term, but he has power and a plus arm, hitting 94 mph as a pitcher in the past. His bat control isn’t great and his swing has gotten very noisy, something he’ll need to work on in the Arizona League. Texas prep right-hander Mason Englert (4) has a very projectable 6-foot-4 frame and is in the low 90s with some feel for two off-speed pitches already.
Jayce Easley (5), son of Damion, is a solid defensive shortstop with good instincts and enough potential with the bat that, by playing alongside first-rounder Nolan Gorman all spring, he showed scouts enough to get into the top five rounds. Sean Chandler (6) was a third-year player at two-year Iowa Western, which apparently doesn’t have a very good math department. He’s a real prospect, however, throwing 92-94 mph and flashing more, with enough of a slider that you could project him as a two-pitch reliever just on what he has now, and he might have some room left to grow into his 6-foot-5 frame. Tim Brennan (7) is a command right-hander who can sink his below-average fastball and lacks a swing-and-miss pitch. He walked five batters this spring as a starter for St. Joseph’s for a 1.5 percent walk rate.
Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto’s draft revolved around a pair of high school teammates who’ll likely eat up most of their bonus pool and a potential top-10 pick who fell after a miserable spring. Jordan Groshans (1) was just No. 51 on my big board because of concerns about his swing — he has quick hands but doesn’t use his lower half much or stay back on the ball, so while he may physically grow into power, his swing isn’t geared toward taking advantage of it just yet. He has played shortstop but projects as an above-average to plus defender at third, with a very strong throwing arm to handle the hot corner. I think he’s interesting and offers above-average regular upside or more, but he needs quite a bit of development help.
Griffin Conine (2), son of Mr. Marlin (unless they took that title back too) Jeff Conine, came off a smashing summer on Cape Cod as a lock to go among the top 10 picks, then promptly destroyed the lock by striking out 72 times this spring (a third of his at-bats, 27 percent of plate appearances) for Duke and hitting .278/.402/.611 on the season. It’s not his swing, but his approach seemed to fall apart, and, of course, he may have started pressing when the season began so poorly. He has power and had really never struck out on a rate like this previously in his career, so I understand the buy-low idea here. He’ll be at least the fifth son of a big leaguer in the Jays’ system, along with the sons of Vlad Guerrero, Dante Bichette, Craig Biggio and Roger Clemens, plus the nephew of Mark Grudzielanek. It’s a strategy, although I’m not sure it’s a good one.
Adam Kloffenstein (3) was Groshans’ teammate at Magnolia, a potential second-round pick who’ll likely get over slot in the third to buy him away from a scholarship to TCU. The 6-foot-4 right-hander will pitch at 91-94 mph and has flashed even more velocity, with good spin on his breaking ball and some feel for a changeup. There’s some violence in his delivery at times, but his timing is good and he seems to extend well toward the plate. He might be far from the majors but has midrotation upside.
Sean Wymer (4) is a 6-foot right-hander from TCU who mostly worked as a starter, showing three fringe-average or below pitches with good control; I don’t think he’s even a fifth starter unless his arsenal improves in pro ball. Shortstop Addison Barger (6), committed to Florida, has a plus arm and good hands, along with a solid left-handed swing that might lead to some future power. He’s a 45 runner at best, probably heading for second base, and when I saw him this spring he had some uncomfortable swings against a lefty. He’s good value in the sixth round as a middle infielder with some athleticism and upside with the bat. Notre Dame infielder Nick Podkul (7) has a decent swing for contact without power; he’s an average runner whom the Jays listed as a third baseman, but he also played second for the Irish.