An Early Look at Middle Infielders in the 2017 MLB Draft

This is a series of scouting thoughts on high-school prospects eligible for the 2017 MLB Draft based on observations from summer showcases. Today’s positional group is middle infielders. Links to other positional groups appear below.

Previous editions: Catchers / Left-Handed Pitchers.

If this is the first post in the series that you’re checking out or just need a refresher, the players who have full paragraphs below are listed in the order I prefer them based on my summer looks. That order will very likely undergo changes between now and June. This year’s group of middle infielders is a little cloudy. The top two prospects for me who are arguably capable of playing SS/2B are likely to be picked at other positions; other than those two players, the group lacks a splashy talent worthy of top-10 or -15 consideration.

Scarce though quality shortstops may be, we’ve been fortunate to have at least one talented enough to merit top-20 consideration in each draft this decade (’10: Manny Machado, ’11: Francisco Lindor: ’12: Carlos Correa and Addison Russell, ’13: J.P. Crawford, ’14: Nick Gordon, ’15: Brendan Rodgers, ’16: Delvin Perez would have gone top 10 if not for failing his pre-draft drug test and Gavin Lux went 20th overall), but that streak may end this season. Players “of note” in the second section are listed in alphabetical order.

Royce Lewis, ATH, J Serra HS (CA)

Height: 6’2, Weight: 188, Commitment: UC Irvine

Lewis played all over the place throughout the summer and is such a good athlete that I think, with time, he could make it work at whatever position he was asked to, save for maybe shortstop. I like him best in center field but also saw him work at second base, where his actions, especially around the bag, are raw but workable. Regardless of position, I think his bat is worthy of first-round consideration. I’ll talk more about Lewis when we cover the outfielders because that’s where I think he ends up, but there’s a non-zero chance he’s drafted as an infielder and I wouldn’t disagree with it.

Hunter Greene, SS, Notre Dame HS (CA)

Height: 6’4 Weight: 205 Commitment: UCLA

This is where, hypothetically, I’d rank Hunter Greene were he exclusively a shortstop. While I do prefer Greene on the mound, his skills as a hitter and defender are uncommon, though incomplete.

Greene has plus raw power. He hit several balls out of Wrigley Field (as in, out of the entire stadium) during the Under Armour All American Game Home Run Derby and won the Perfect Game All American Home Run Derby at spacious PETCO Park. He is 17 years old. With more on the frame (and I think there’s room for it), he could grow into additional power.

Greene’s actions at shortstop are velvety smooth and he has elite arm strength (he’s been up to 98 on the mound). He’s also an above-average athlete with impeccable makeup, poise and charisma. Hunter Greene may be Norman Rockwell’s Shortstop, but he is also already a 30 runner. I timed Greene between 4.55 and 4.58, from home to first this summer. He’s 6-foot-4, 200 pounds and, at 17 years old, probably going to get bigger.

I’m not closed-minded enough to simply write Greene off because he doesn’t run well. I do think it’s highly unlikely that he’ll have the range to play shortstop at maturity, but it isn’t totally unprecedented for someone Greene’s size to play there. If teams think he has enough arm strength, athleticism and feel for the position to mask a lack of range then he could be considered at short. And even if Greene should have to move to third base, where range matters less, he could be a plus defender there.

While Greene’s power was evident during batting practice and home run derbies, it didn’t often show up in games because he swung and missed quite a bit and several times through driveable pitches. I’m not sure if it’s a bat-control issue or hand-eye related or something else entirely, but I’d have more confidence in Greene’s ability to hit if I had seen him do it against elite competition. I think a lot of teams feel the same way as it pertains to weighing showcase performance from hitters.

When reduced down, Hunter Greene, Shortstop Prospect has a non-zero chance of playing SS while maturing into huge raw power. Flaws be damned, that’s intriguing and players have been first-round draftees for less than that. But I prefer him on the mound because I have questions about the bat-to-ball and about Greene’s ultimate position while, when he’s on the mound, I basically have none.

Nick Allen, SS, Francis Parker HS (CA)

Height: 5’9 Weight: 155 Commitment: Southern California

I anticipate Allen to become one of the draft’s more polarizing players. His defensive talent is exceptional but many are going to question his size and ability to hit.

Allen has below-average bat speed and has a very conservative ground-ball, opposite-field approach. He does have some barrel feel and tracks well, so I think there’s a chance that he has a 45 or 50 bat at maturity, but I can’t imagine him hitting for more than 30 game power. Allen would have to play spectacular defense to profile as a big leaguer with that kind of offensive profile.

I think he will. Allen’s defensive gifts are bountiful. He is an average runner with enough range for short, quick feet, a plus-plus arm, elite hands and an athletic and (sometimes excessively) acrobatic style of play. Also of note was the rapport he showed with his double play partners on the SoCal team at Area Codes. No matter on what side of the bag Allen was standing or who he was feeding for the turn, Allen’s throws were accurate and well timed, paced well enough to get outs but not rushed or manic.

If you think Allen is a future plus defender at SS (and I’m pretty sure I do) but one that provides very little offensive production, where might he be drafted? Gavin Lux, Kyle Holder and Deven Marrero were all first-round picks either primarily or exclusively because they project to play a viable shortstop. Conversely, there are also players like Oregon State INF Nick Madrigal who, like Allen, was clearly an up-the-middle defensive fit (and I’d argue a better offensive player and overall prospect than Allen) but fell to the 17th round because some scouts were concerned about his size and didn’t want to pay early-round money for a player who might never have big-league physicality.

Drew Swift, SS, Hamilton HS (AZ)

Height: 6’1, Weight: 152, Commitment: Arizona State

Swift has electric defensive actions, is a comfortably plus runner with a plus arm and one of the better bets to stay at short among this year’s high-school crop, even though his style of play leads to some unnecessary mistakes. He is tall but slightly built and not everyone is convinced that he’s going to fill out, so there’s a chance he remains a slash-and-run type of hitter without any power like he is right now.

It will be interesting to see how Swift’s path to playing time at Arizona State will impact his signability. ASU lost incumbent SS Colby Woodmansee to the draft (Mets, 5th round) and the Sun Devils’ two most prominent class of 2016 infielders, Bo Bichette and Gavin Lux, both signed pro contracts. Other than incoming freshman Carter Aldrete, there isn’t a clear option at short for ASU in the short or long term and Swift might have the opportunity to play right away in a more competitive environment than the complex-level ball he’d likely be relegated to were he to sign. Performing against PAC-12 competition while polishing up your defense at a premium position is a good way to go in the first round.

Andrew Papantonis, INF, Delbarton HS (NJ)

Height: 6’2, Weight: 190, Commitment: Virginia

Papantonis is raw but an impressive physical specimen with above-average power and straight line speed. He takes some ugly hacks in games but hit a bomb at Area Codes, had some of the more explosive BP sessions I saw this summer and enough physical tools to at least make things work at second base with time. Scouts might project Papantonis’ tools a little more aggressively than others because he’s from a cold-weather state and has a two-sport pedigree. He also plays a large, multi-positional role on Delbarton’s football team (varsity starter his freshman year, prominent part of state runner-up team as a sophomore) but missed his junior year on the gridiron after a preseason knee injury required surgery and an autumn’s worth of rest. The injury did not cause him to miss any baseball this spring, though. He’s playing football this again this fall with UVA’s blessing. As is customary with Virginia signees, Papantonis’ signability may be an obstacle.

Brady McConnell, SS, Merritt Island HS (FL)

Height: 6’3 Weight: 175 Commitment: Florida

I’m having a hard time nailing down McConnell. He has above-average bat speed and I like the plane to his swing, but it can get long, there’s some effort to it and McConnell’s approach in my looks has been hyper-aggressive while his offspeed recognition has been spotty. Similarly, at short, McConnell is explosive and it appears as though he has the physical tools to play shortstop, but his actions are messy, he looks stiff at times and he has had issues with arm accuracy and some of the finer points of playing the position. Physical tools are, above all, what scouts are looking for in draft prospects, especially high-school ones, and I think McConnell has them. But he’s raw which, for a Florida prep prospect who will be 19 on draft day, is a bit of a red flag.

Jeter Downs, 2B, SLAM

Height: 5’11”, Weight: 180, Commitment: Miami

SLAM stands for Sports Leadership and Management, a tuition-free charter school in Miami that has only been in operation since 2013. Downs has the actions for shortstop, but the arm strength and body type point toward second base. Downs homered twice at Area Codes and, though there isn’t big bat speed here, he’s short to the ball, has nice natural loft and good extension. I think he has a chance for above-average hit and average game power at maturity, which could profile at second base.

Trevor Hauver, 2B, Perry HS (AZ)

Height: 6’, Weight: 185, Commitment: Arizona State

Hauver had one of the quickest bats at the Area Code Games, barreling good velocity in various parts of the hitting zone and spraying contact to all fields. He had an impressive BP, as well. I think he kicks over to 2B where he’ll be a bat-first prospect. I’m not sure how much power projection there is here, but I think he’ll hit.

Other middle infielders of note:

Trei Cruz, SS, Episcopal HS (TX) (Video) – Cruz, who is committed to Rice, is the son of former big leaguer and Rice All American Jose Cruz Jr. and the grandson of former Astros All-Star Jose Cruz Sr. Cruz has athletic actions and an average arm that I think will improve as he fills out. He’s a 40 runner and his hands were inconsistent during games and infield drills. A switch-hitter, Cruz’s swing is more natural and athletic from the right side, while his left-handed swing is noisy and slappier.

Ricardo De La Torre, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (PR) – Much like McConnell, De La Torre looks as though he has every physical ingredient needed to concoct a pro shortstop but had erratic performances in games. He has a comfortably plus arm but struggled with accuracy in my looks and has below-average bat speed.

Adam Hall, SS, A.B. Lucas Secondary School, London, Ontario, Canada, North America, Western Hemisphere, Earth (Video) – Hall has a simple, but somewhat stiff stroke that’s geared for the opposite-field gap. He has shown the ability to turn on ball up and yanked out a letter-high fastball at the Area Code Games. I’m not yet sold that Hall’s hands and arm strength are of shortstop quality. He’s an average runner. Hall is committed to Texas A&M and has more of a utility profile for me right now.

Jamal O’Guinn, SS, Buchanan HS (CA) (Video) – O’Guinn has some power but is already a 30 runner and his swing can get long. He profiles defensively at third for me where his power will still probably play but the bat-to-ball issues become less tolerable. Both O’Guinn and high-school teammate Quentin Selma de-committed from Fresno State this summer.

Kyler McMahan, SS, Lynwood HS (WA) (Video) – McMahan made several acrobatic plays at short during Area Codes and has excellent defensive footwork. His arm, which is average, and his body both point to second base where there may not be enough power projection to profile as a regular.





Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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Bipmember
5 years ago

Don’t forget about Corey Seager, 18th overall in 2012