Archive for 2019 MLB Draft

Updating the 2019, 2020, and 2021 Draft Rankings

With the 2019 NCAA Baseball season set to begin on Friday, we have updated our draft prospect rankings for this year, as well as the two drafts that follow. Each class can be found via this link to THE BOARD.

So what has changed since we last updated our rankings in the fall? There were more high school showcases throughout the autumn months, and college teams held fall practices and scrimmages, during which it was clear that some players had changed since the end of the previous season. Some January high school tournaments took place in warmer locales, and the junior college season began several weeks ago. We expect all of these rankings to change as the draft approaches, though our focus will be on the 2019 class for obvious reasons. The 2021 class rankings are mostly comprised of unsigned high school players from the 2018 draft, as well as a handful of high school players who have been identified early.

Does the 2019 class have any overarching themes, and how does it compare to other recent drafts?
It’s hard not to note the lack of exciting college pitching, though it’s also worth remembering that at this time last year, soon-to-be No. 1 overall pick Casey Mize was nowhere near the runaway, best-in-class arm he’d eventually become. We expect to have higher opinions of several college arms come June, but the list of guys who we’d bet on rising up our board is also just shorter than usual.

That’s not to say the entire class is bad. It currently appears well-stocked with college hitters (arguably the most widely-desired demographic by major league clubs), particularly college hitters who have a chance to stay up the middle.

Just how good is Adley Rutschman?
Rutschman, the Oregon State catcher, is currently our top prospect for the 2019 draft. At this point in the process, it’s natural for readers to ask if there’s a generational talent in this class, or if this year’s top prospect is better than past top picks. He’s better right now, for us and the scouts we talk to, than 2018 Georgia Tech catcher/Giants second overall pick Joey Bart, who is obviously an easier direct comparison than Mize, despite Mize going first overall last year. We have Rutschman as the only 55 FV player in this draft class; Bart was a 50 FV on our 2018 draft rankings, with the main difference being Rutschman’s superior hit tool. The rest of the tools are about the same. As you’ll see on our overall rankings later this week, Mize is at the lower end of the 55 FV tier, and we’d have Rutschman slightly above him, but sandwiched between the top catching prospect in the minor leagues (the Dodgers’ Keibert Ruiz) and the second one (Bart), which would slot Rutschman in the 21-40 overall range of a top 100, were he eligible.

Also, because the draft order is totally set, we can officially lay to rest the #PlayBadlyForAdley hashtag.

Will we have another Kyler Murray/Jordyn Adams situation?
It may not be as dramatic as the Murray soap opera has turned out to be, but there’s a good chance that we have two two-sport athletes with signability questions. High schoolers Maurice Hampton (No. 19 overall on THE BOARD, and a 4-star LSU WR recruit) and Jerrion Ealy (No. 38 for us, and a 5-star Ole Miss RB commit) are both premium two-sport talents whose signability major league teams will need to properly gauge and feel comfortable with if they’re going to take them, the way the Angels did with Adams last year and Oakland seemingly did not do with Murray.

Ealy’s narrative has already been quite dramatic, as he was once an Ole Miss commit before de-committing to consider other schools, including Alabama and Clemson. It was thought throughout the industry that if Ealy ended up in Clemson or Tuscaloosa, baseball would have no shot at him. He re-committed to Ole Miss last week; both he and Hampton are considered signable in the first round, at least.

What about two-way players?
Two of the names we find most intriguing as two-way possibilities are SoCal high school LHP/1B Spencer Jones and Houston-area MIF/CF/RHP Sanson Faltine III, also known as Trey Faltine. They’re both plus athletes with terrific breaking balls and presently fringy velocity (lots of 88-92), but they’re different hitters. Jones is a power projection bat while Faltine is more compact and speedy.

What about the next two classes?
2020 looks solid, led by two pitchers from the Georgia Bulldogs (right-handers Cole Wilcox and Emerson Hancock), and we’ve already identified about half of the top tier of talent (50 or better FV) that’s standard for a draft class. This class is also pretty balanced, with a solid mix of hitting and pitching, and prep and college talent, though the college talent leans heavily toward players from the SEC, ACC, and this summer’s collegiate Team USA. It seemed unusual this summer that there were so many 2020, and one 2021, prep pitchers getting into the mid-90s, but perhaps 15- and 16-year-olds hitting 95 mph is just normal now. 2021 is obviously leaning toward college talent at the moment, as many of the high school prospects are 15 years old today, so just a handful have emerged as elite talents (Brady House, Luke Leto, Nick Bitsko, Roc Riggio (!), Braylon Bishop, and Blaze Jordan).

Who has risen since the last rankings?
Missouri center fielder Kameron Misner was in the 90 to 100 area for us in the early fall, as he was a known tools type with injury issues who didn’t play over the summer, then started rising with a loud fall. San Jacinto JC (TX) right-hander Jackson Rutledge transferred from Arkansas and was in the mid-90s, touching 97 in the pen for the Razorbacks, but took a step forward at San Jac. He was solidly in the top 100 for us weeks ago until his season debut, when scouts told us it was a Nate Pearson starter kit, into the high-90s once again with two plus breaking balls and some starter traits, cementing his position further. TCU lefty Nick Lodolo finally had the velo bump in the fall we’ve been waiting years for. Florida righty Tyler Dyson started showing first round stuff in the fall as his rollercoaster is headed back up. Elon righty George Kirby is showing two pluses at times with some starter traits, and Campbell righty Seth Johnson is also in that general area, at another smaller North Carolina college.

On the prep side, Jacksonville-area third baseman Tyler Callihan slimmed down in the fall and got a little more athletic while also not looking bad in a short stint as a catcher, so his power bat is now in day one contention. Pennsylvania prep player, and younger brother of Reds center fielder Mike Siani, Sammy Siani also went from a solid follow to a real prospect with a loud showing in Jupiter in October.

How about all these Diamondbacks picks?
Because the Dbacks did not sign Matt McLain last year, got picks for losing Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock, and received a pick back from St. Louis in the Paul Goldschmidt deal, they’ll pick 16th, 26th, 33rd, 34th, 57th, 75th, 78th, and 94th in the upcoming draft. Not only does this mean Arizona will likely add eight 40 or better FV prospects to their farm system, it also means they have a ton of financial flexibility because their bonus pool size will be so large. Except for perhaps Atlanta, which also picks twice (at nine because they failed to sign Carter Stewart, and 21 as their normal pick), it could prove virtually impossible for teams to try to move over-slot high schoolers back to their second round picks, because the Dbacks will just be able to take them and meet their asking price if they want.

Will the current labor climate have any impact on the draft?
Amateur players get hosed by CBA negotiations because they don’t have a seat at the bargaining table, and the MLBPA (made up of players who have already been drafted and won’t ever have to be again) has continuously traded amateur players’ rights for its members’ own benefits, albeit insufficient ones. The lack of current free agent movement may begin to impact the decisions of high school athletes choosing between entering pro baseball now or waiting through three years of D-I college baseball before they re-enter the draft. If a college player is drafted at age 21 or 22 and takes two to three years to reach the Majors, their six-year service time clock will start when they’re 23-25 and they’ll hit the open market when they’re 29-31. The current state of free agency signals that those players may never have a big payday.

Mets first baseman Peter Alonso is a great example. He has done nothing but mash since he was a teen, but is the sort of prospect who doesn’t get paid out of high school, with clubs preferring to see less athletic corner types perform in college rather than take their prep versions in the first few rounds. Alonso kept hitting and now will be a 31-year-old R/R first baseman when he becomes a free agent. If 26-year-old superstars are struggling to get a fair shake in free agency, what kind of market can Alonso expect to have? We don’t know if this will impact the decision-making process of elite high school prospects, and perhaps a new CBA will soon make this a moot point. But it’s something we think players might start to consider.

Who could move up this spring?
We both picked a few guys we think will move up. Good luck to all the teams and players this spring.
Eric: J.J. Goss, Faltine, Gunnar Henderson, Kyren Paris, Tanner Morris
Kiley: Jackson Rutledge, Hunter Barco, Jack Kochanowicz, Kirby, Seth Johnson

Fall Equinox Draft Board Update

The summer, rich with relevant amateur baseball, has ended. With it ends an important stretch on the player-evaluation calendar, one that is being weighed more heavily with each passing draft. We consider this checkpoint to be a sensible time to revisit our draft prospect rankings and make a sweeping update to the amateur wing of THE BOARD. A link to the 2019 draft board is here, but it can also be accessed through our brand new prospect landing page, which encompasses all of our content (shout-out to Sean Dolinar!) here.

Below we’ve attempted to anticipate some questions readers might have and to answer them as well as possible.

Q. Why is the summer so important for draft evaluation?

A. The high concentration of talent in collegiate wood-bat leagues and in scout-run high-school showcase events (which are designed to be evaluation-friendly) more closely approximates the talent environment of pro baseball. It’s hard to know if a high-school hitter facing a lot of suburban varsity, upper-70s fastballs is actually any good, but watch a prep hitter face Division I breaking balls and 90-plus mph fastballs for eight weeks, and you’re going to learn a lot about him.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 7/23/18

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Luc Rennie, RHP, New York Mets (Profile)
Level: Low-A   Age: 24   Org Rank: NR   FV: 30
Line: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 14 K

Rennie is four appearances deep into his first year back in affiliated ball since 2015, when he was with Baltimore. He’s spent the last several seasons with Evansville in the independent Frontier League and was injured for a portion of that time. He was dominant for the Otters this spring and signed with the Mets earlier this month. Last night he pitched the game of his life and struck out 14 hitters, a Columbia franchise record, with most of them coming on a plus upper-70s 12-6 curveball. Rennie has five pitches. His fastball has natural cut, he has a two-seamer, an average mid-80s slider, that curveball, and a below-average changeup. He’ll run the fastball up to 95 but sits 90-92 and mixes his breaking balls well. Rennie is carrying a 0.83 ERA through 21.1 innings at Low-A.

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Early 2019-21 Draft Rankings

The 2018 MLB Draft’s signing deadline passed last week, and more teams failed to sign their early picks than is typical. Ultimately, four of the top 36 selections opted not to enter professional ball, all from the prep ranks. Those players are as follows: RHP Carter Stewart (Atlanta’s pick at No. 8), SS Matt McLain (Arizona at No. 25), RHP J.T. Ginn (Dodgers at No. 30), and Gunnar Hoglund (Pirates at No. 36). Scouting details on those individuals can be found on THE BOARD.

This has left those teams with one fewer prospect in their system than anticipated (all four teams get a compensation pick in next year’s draft), but more significantly, it moves a handful of premium talent into future draft classes. This year’s crop of unsigned high schoolers now serves as a preview of the college talent pool for the 2021 draft, but there are also a few 2020 prospects who are eligible early because they’re old for their class. There’s also a possibility that some could find their way into the 2019 draft class if they opt to attend junior college. We’ll reclassify players on THE BOARD as they change.

With that in mind, we thought it reasonable to present snapshots of each of the next three draft classes based on how we have the players graded right now. The industry’s evaluation of the 2019 class is already underway in earnest (Team USA, Cape Cod, and prep showcases are all occurring as we speak), and we’ve lined up a short list of the class’s top names thus far over on THE BOARD. Our 2020 list is mostly composed of the players we regarded as the best college freshmen this year, though we know of a few high schoolers who look like early first-round talents, too. The 2021 list is just a ranking of the high schoolers who didn’t sign in this year’s draft, exactly as they appeared on our 2018 draft board. We’re skeptical of prep players who have popped up this early because it’s often the result of physical maturity, but we don’t think that’s the case for Pennsylvania high school RHP Kevin Bitsko, whom we have evaluated similarly to the lean projection arms who are 40 FVs on the July 2 list.

Click here to see the 2019-21 draft prospects at THE BOARD.

We’re still too early in the process to make conclusive statements about the talent level of the 2019 draft class as a whole, much less the 2020 or 2021 varieties, so all this could change. As it stands now, however, the 2019 class collectively appears to lack the depth of the 2018 crop. By this time last year, we had a rough idea of how deep the high-school pitching was and knew that the Southeast had an overwhelming volume of talent. College hitting is the strength of next year’s draft class, and there’s lots of depth to the college crop in general, but the prep class lacks the quantity of players who are regarded as in-a-vacuum first rounders that one customarily sees at this point. Moreover, the college pitching class lacks a guy who looks like a top-five or -10 selection right now, though Casey Mize didn’t fit that criteria last summer and then ended up going first overall to Detroit in June.

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Post-Draft Odds and Ends

Since it’s always draft-evaluation season, I thought it might make sense to start this post-draft notes column with some names for future draft classes. It’s too early to really rank these guys with any depth since we (and scouts) will be seeing all these players over the next couple months, so they will shuffle themselves a good bit this summer, but we definitely have a sense of who the top tier of talent is in the amateur ranks. These names are all in order of preference within the group in which they are identified.

2019 MLB Draft

For the 2019 class, there is a top tier of five prep standouts, while the college side is very deep in hitters. College pitching is very shallow at this early juncture, however. On the prep side, we have SS C.J. Abrams (Georgia), SS Bobby Witt, Jr. (Texas), LHP Hunter Barco (Florida), 3B Rece Hinds (Florida), and RHP Brennan Malone (North Carolina).

Atop the very deep college hitter class, we have SS Bryson Stott (UNLV), C Adley Rutschman (Oregon State), SS Logan Davidson (Clemson), C Shea Langliers (Baylor), SS Greg Jones (UNC Wilmington), RF Michael Toglia (UCLA), 3B Josh Jung (Texas Tech), RF Michael Busch (North Carolina), RF Matt Wallner (Southern Miss), and SS Braden Shewmake (Texas A&M).

As for that second tier of college bats, we have 3B Drew Mendoza (Florida State), 1B Andrew Vaughn (Cal), SS Will Holland (Auburn), CF Kam Misner (Missouri), 2B Chase Strumpf (UCLA), CF Wil Dalton (Florida), SS Will Wilson (North Carolina State), 1B Spencer Brickhouse (East Carolina), and 2B Nick Quintana (Arizona). All of those college hitters have top-two-round type profiles and the depth of the class means Team USA and the Cape will be deep with bats to watch this summer. There isn’t a clear top college pitcher, and none project for the top 15 picks at this point.

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Far Too Many Scouting Notes on College Draft Prospects

It’s been a little while since I emptied my scouting notebook of the draft prospects I’ve scouted, so I’ve split it into college and high-school portions. Below are all of the notable college draft prospects I’ve scouted in the last month, with thoughts on what I saw from them and how the industry views them. First, I’ll break down the prospects projected for the top two rounds, with embedded video. For reference, here are Eric and my preseason draft rankings, which will be updated soon. Below the likely first- and second-rounders are potential third- through sixth-rounds picks. Below that group is a collection of possible first- and second-rounders for the 2019 and 2020 drafts, the most recent rankings for which are available here.

Rounds One and Two

Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State

Bohm was seen by most scouts before the season as a first-rounder but also the second-best prospect on his own team behind Greyson Jenista (below). This spring, Bohm has clearly overtaken his teammate and had some scouts whispering that he did some things like Kris Bryant the night I saw him against ECU. To be clear, Bohm isn’t seen as that level of a prospect just yet, but he isn’t as far away as you may think. He has 70 raw power and, even at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, does a great job at the plate keeping his hands tucked in and limiting his hand load to keep his stroke short. Even with with that, he still can do things like hit an opposite-field home run with a flick of the wrist, as you can see in the above video.

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MLB Draft Rankings: 2018, 2019, and 2020

To answer your first question: no, there isn’t a slam-dunk, generational talent among the prospects ranked below. We’ll have to wait a little longer, it seems, for the next Bryce Harper to emerge. Nevertheless, the 2018 draft class is generally seen as deep and strong, particularly in prep pitching. There isn’t a player yet on whom we’d currently put a 55 FV (that is, the lowest grade received by the first 42 prospects on the recently published top-100 list), but almost every draft class ends up with a couple of those, and obviously these names will shift around during the season.

For reference, last year’s draft ended up with one low 60 FV and five players with 55 FV grades by the time the offseason arrived. So expecting three to five of the following prospects to emerge in the top 50 of next year’s Top 100 seems reasonable. As you might guess, the top 10-15 prospects are pretty tightly packed. With most of the early-season action occurring in Arizona, Florida, and SoCal, we’ll both be out to get lots of early looks this spring to quickly start sorting more out.

It’s too early to do a mock draft that would amount to anything much greater than a collection of guesses (here’s the draft order, for reference), but something to monitor is the presence of those clubs that lean risk-averse/analytic/etc. in the top half of the first round. In light of certain trends within the game — and, in particular, what appears to be a greater interest in near-ready, low-end-regular types — this could push college players (and, specifically, college bats) up into the high first round. Both Oregon State and Missouri State have TrackMan units at their home parks, so clubs will have multiple years of data on Madrigal and Eierman to aid their evaluations. Hitters from Virginia have benefited in much the same way from strong, large-sample TrackMan data in recent drafts.

Just as the recent minor-league top-100 list prominently featured the sons of Dante Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero, and Fernando Tatis, the lists that follow also feature quite a bit in the way of bloodlines. We have the sons of Jeff Conine, Troy Percival, David Weathers, and Bobby Witt, along with the younger brothers of Pirates Triple-A RHP Nick Kingham, Rays Double-A 1B/LF Joe McCarthy, Padres Double-A 1B Josh Naylor, and Blue Jays Triple-A CF Dalton Pompey. Kumar Rocker’s father, meanwhile, is Tracy Rocker, a former NFL defensive tackle and current defensive line coach for Tennessee.

We could have ranked more players or included more names for each list (especially projectable high-school arms), but we chose to limit ourselves in this preseason installment. Things will obviously expand as we get more information. We’ll have a slightly different presentation of the list than in years past, to more closely resemble the sort of information at what clubs are looking in draft rooms. We’ll both be at games starting this week and will keep you guys updates with tweets and InstaGraphs posts (along with longer posts when warranted) and updated rankings a couple more times leading up to the draft.

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