Far Too Many Scouting Notes on College Draft Prospects by Kiley McDaniel April 6, 2018 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. He’s a solid athlete who’s a fringey runner, can stick at third base, and has sneaky quickness to project as average to possibly a little above at the hot corner along with a plus arm. Given his length and broad shoulders, he could put on enough weight to become fringy at the position or move to a different corner, but he would likely add more power if that happened. You can quibble that his hands aren’t loaded in an ideal position for power (his bat is sticking straight up rather than being slightly coiled around his head at foot plant), but he has so much power that he still gets to it in games with these mechanics. This also makes him more likely to have a 50 bat with, say 55-60 game power, from his 70 raw power, whereas those more traditionally power-based mechanics may produce something like a 45 bat with 60-65 game power. It’s more of a choice than a deficiency, in other words. Bohm will likely appear within the top five of our forthcoming re-rank of the draft-eligible prospects and is in play as high as the third overall pick from what we’ve gathered so far. Travis Swaggerty, CF, South Alabama Swaggerty was a new name to most scouts this summer when he stood out for Team USA as a plus runner who profiled in center field and featured below-average gap-to-gap game power and an above-average hit tool. Since then, he’s added some strength and loft to his swing, now flashing 60 raw power to his pull side in BP and still showing plus speed and average ability to play center field. He had a hot start to the season that had some overzealously comparing him to Andrew Benintendi. I caught Swaggerty in one of his worst games of the year, off-balance all day (as you can see in the above video) in an 0-for-6 showing even as his team scored 11 runs — all that in front of three scouting directors, three special assistants, and four national crosscheckers. At least one club with a top-five pick thinks Swaggerty is the best college bat in the country, so it’s hard to see him lasting beyond the 10th selection at this point. I realize (along with the scouts next to whom I was standing when I watched him) that we got a particularly bad look on this day (and were rained out the next day), but Swaggerty had similar issues the day and week before, so this is more an issue of him dialing in his approach. Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson Gilbert was 92-96 mph on the Cape last summer and in short outings this winter but has been working with a little less velocity this spring, sitting 92-94 and hitting 95 mph in the first inning before settling at 90-93 mph the rest of the way. He’s been showing similar velo in other outings this spring, which makes his command and secondary pitches more important, and they are still sharp. Gilbert’s delivery has some head action at release and a spin-off to first base, normally things you see in relievers, but Gilbert loads his arm early with a medium arm circle, everything is on time, and he’s a solid athlete. The delivery ultimately works for him, and he exhibits above-average command, particularly of his fastball. His numbers (48.0 IP, 69 K, 13 BB) illustrate how he’s using his solid command and stuff against mid-major competition. Gilbert’s go-to secondary pitch is his 75-79 mph curveball that was almost always a 50 or 55 that he located well. He also mixed in an 81-83 mph slider that was a less consistent but flashed 55 once or twice, as well, along with a changeup he didn’t use much at all but looked about average in warmups. He’s 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds with room to add a little more to his frame. Obviously, a card with all 50s and 55s doesn’t get you super excited for a top-10 pick from a mid-major college, but for a club that wants quick-moving help with a high probability of appearing in a big-league rotation in short order, Gilbert would be arguably the safest college arm on the board. Because of that, he still likely fits among the draft’s top-10 picks at this point. Greyson Jenista, RF, Wichita State Jenista is a unique college player who draws comparisons to players like Adam Dunn or late-career Lance Berkman due to his 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame and handsy, powerful lefty cut. I graded his power as a 65 after he hit a ball halfway up the batter’s eye in batting practice, but his game swing doesn’t have the kind of loft or traditional hand load you’d like to see, so his capacity to tap into that power consistently might be limited. He does hit the snot out of the ball pretty often, making these mechanics work for him. That, like Alec Bohm’s hand load, are both seen as pretty fixable issues, but you’d rather have a finished product than one that may not be able to change what you need him to change. Jenista is a deceptively quick athlete who profiles in right field as an average runner with an average arm. He has the kind of body that probably won’t age particularly well into his 30s. With some slight adjustments, however, Jenista could be a middle-of-the-order power bat. He’ll likely land in the middle to late first round. Jonathan India, 3B, Florida India was known to scouts as a high-school underclassmen in south Florida. While he’s changed some over the years, he was always projected as a fringe-regular type with some tools and some feel but gave no one reason to assume he’d be selected in the top couple rounds. This spring, India has cleaned up his body, is a little more athletic, and now has 55 raw power to profile at third base, where he fits best long-term despite some time at shortstop this spring. This improvement in body and strength has translated to his numbers, as India is raking this year to the tune of .433/.542/.911, with 20 walks, 19 strikeouts, and 11 homers. If he continues hitting at this rate deep into SEC play, he may force his way into the late first round, but he’s currently a sandwich pick for me right now. A college bat with 50 hit and power tools, gaudy numbers, and some defensive value isn’t easy to find. Such players tend to climb come draft day, so India is in good position. Griffin Conine, RF, Duke Conine had some real hype entering this spring after a solid sophomore season and performance on the Cape to go with gaudy exit velocities and MLB bloodlines from his father Jeff Conine. This spring, however, has not gone well for Conine. In 2017, he hit .298/.425/.546 with 41 walks and 45 strikeouts to go with 13 homers. So far this season, meanwhile, he’s hitting .233/.362/.485 with 19 walks, 34 strikeouts, and six homers. In between those two collegiate seasons, Conine performed well on the Cape — with wood bats, against better competition — hitting .329/.406/.537 with 20 walks and 43 strikeouts, plus nine homers in just 42 games. Those 2018 spring numbers reflect what I saw this past Sunday, when Conine struck out twice, walked twice, and hit a towering homer to center field (the first swing in the above video). He’s gone from a well-rounded power hitter to a real three-true-outcomes monster, having sold out for power to an extreme degree. His swing is technically sound but features too much effort for him to remain under control, allow the ball to travel, give him time to read spin, and make mid-swing adjustments. It’s getting into softball-swing territory. Given the bloodlines, highly scouted Cape performance, and exit velos, scouts agree he won’t get out of the second round, but he’s not playing well right now and will be the top priority for a pro hitting coordinator for the first couple years. Rounds Three Through Six Ryan Jeffers, C, UNC Wilmington – Jeffers has a shot to catch: he has a 55 arm that sometimes plays down in games and is a fringe to average receiver at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds. His carrying tool is his 55 to 60 raw power, and he’s been producing this year: .364/.476/.747 with 20 walks, 17 strikeouts, and eight homers. He didn’t hit so much in the game I saw (walk, single, ground out, line out, fly out), in part due to inconsistent weight transfer. Regardless, he could go as early as the late second round and shouldn’t get out of the fourth. Griffin Roberts, RHR, Wake Forest – Roberts has a nasty slider — I guess I’ll call it a 70 — and, at 81-84 mph, it may end up being a Luke Gregerson-type weapon if he can stay healthy. Roberts is the Friday starter for Wake after a career in relief and sits 89-93 mph with occasional above-average life and a changeup that flashes average. He has fringe to average command. I project him as a reliever despite his current role, since I can’t think of a starter in the big leagues with fringe-to-average everything and a 70 breaking ball — those guys end up in relief — not to mention that Roberts loads his arm late, and his elbow gets high in back. Roberts is a 22-year-old junior who was drafted but opted not to sign last year. In terms of signability, he’s effectively a senior, since he won’t be going back to play an age-23 college season. For a club interested in a money-saving quick mover, that could slide him higher in the draft than the fourth- to fifth-round area his talent suggests. J.J. Montgomery, RHS, UCF – Montgomery had scouts buzzing after hitting 97 mph in short stints this fall, following his transfer to UCF from a Florida juco. This spring, the Knights moved him into the rotation for a big matchup against the Gators. He worked 91-95 with above-average life, flashed an average changeup, and threw multiple variations of a cutter/slider/curveball that flashed average at times but was inconsistent. He also flashed the average command to project as a starter and doesn’t have a knockout secondary pitch to tempt teams to put him in relief, projecting for the fourth- to fifth-round area. John Aiello, 3B, Wake Forest – Aiello has 55 raw power and a 55 arm along with an average glove at third base but has had lots of trouble with contact the past two springs. He’s improved some in this area by toning down his swing but still projects for a below-average hit tool, landing him in the fourth- to sixth-round range. Austin Bergner, RHP, North Carolina – Bergner has a long track record, looking like a future top-10 overall pick as a high-school underclassman, when he worked 92-96 mph with a plus breaking ball at Jupiter. Multiple arm-action adjustments in the period since have led to accompanying velo fluctuations. As the Saturday starter for UNC, however, he’s settled at 90-93, touching 94 mph with a fringe curveball, solid-average changeup, and average (at times) command. He’s now a chance back-end starter who fits in the fourth- to sixth-round area depending on how he finishes. Clark Cota, RHR, UNC Wilmington (Video) – Cota has recorded some gaudy numbers as a closer this season (12.2 innings, 24 strikeouts, 4 walks), prompting scouts to track him down. He was a little out of sorts early in my look, walking the first two batters faced, then got more in sync and struck out the next three batters, as you can see in the linked video. Physically, he resembled Mark Melancon and has a similarly high arm slot, working 91-93 mph with a four-seamer along with a solid-average curveball that he locates well. He also features a changeup he used in the pen that he’s just started throwing. The stuff isn’t high octane, but he’s in play as high as the fourth or fifth rounds. Tarik Skubal, LHP, Seattle (Video) – Skubalis is returning from Tommy John surgery and has shown an above-average to plus fastball/slider combo in the past that has scouts monitoring him closely. Unfortunately, he has the same amount of walks and strikeouts this season, and his outing in Florida looked just like his numbers do. Skubal worked 90-94 with some life, showed a 76-78 mph curveball that flashed average to a little above, and threw a couple changeups with one looking average. The issue is his command was bad, in part due to inconsistent rhythm to his delivery. Skubal would be a development project, but there’s still third- or fourth-starter upside if you can right the ship. Jimmy Herron, CF and Zack Kone, 3B, Duke – Herron and Kone are different sorts of player but both fit in the sixth- to seventh-round area, where some college players choose to set their signability higher and come back to school for their senior seasons. Herron is a plus runner who profiles in center and has a solid, gap-to-gap line-drive approach but little power. Kone has more upside as a 6-foot-3, 200-pound shortstop with some pop, but his swing is a little involved, featuring a low hand load that affects his contact ability. He doesn’t lift the ball enough to currently make that work, and he fits better at third base in pro ball. Rounds One and Two, 2019 and 2020 Drafts Greg Jones, SS, UNC Wilmington (2019) – Jones is the rare college prospect with electrifying tools who also has some idea what he’s doing out there. He will be an eligible sophomore next year due to his age and was a real prospect last year out of a North Carolina high school who ultimately set his price a little too high to sign. He’s currently a shortstop and has the actions to stay there. When he can’t set his feet, though, his arm is more of a fit for second base. Jones is plus-plus runner who no doubt could also play center field. He has 50 raw power from both sides of the plate, though he’s more of a line-drive, gap-to-gap type hitter right now. He reminds me some of Braves prospect Derian Cruz with his toolset. Jack Leftwich, RHS, Florida (2020) – Leftwich matched up with J.J. Montgomery (above) and, despite some command issues, was the superior prospect, showing first-round stuff. He worked 92-96 mph in the first with occasionally above-average life, a consistently above-average 80-83 mph curveball that flashed plus once, and an average to slightly above changeup. His frame and velo jump as a true freshman reminds me of fellow Gator Jackson Kowar, who should go in the first round in two months. Michael Busch, RF, North Carolina (2019) – Busch reminds me of UCLA first baseman Michael Toglia, another 2019-eligible prospect. Both are first basemen at a traditional power program, both have the athleticism to play the outfield in pro ball, and both show the ability for a 50 bat along with above-average to plus power that already shows up in games. Both also project for the first round at this point. Joe Boyle, RHP, Notre Dame (2020) – I was hoping to see Boyle on Sunday at Duke, and it only happened in the middle of a 12-run eighth-inning for Duke, with two outs. Boyle was the fifth pitcher of the inning for the Irish and only lasted three batters, allowing an infield single and two walks. On the season, Boyle has made five appearance and recorded one out while allowing seven walks and zero strikeouts. You may be wondering why he’s worth mentioning here, so I’ll tell you: he’s 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, was a top-couple-round prospect in last year’s draft as a high school arm from Kentucky (until he pulled his name out of the draft), and on Sunday, threw 19 pitches, all fastballs, with six of them reaching 97 mph. He’s hit a TrackMan-confirmed 100 mph this season and the lowest velo I saw was a 93 mph pitch that came with plus life. You may be able to guess there weren’t a lot of strikes in any of his appearances this season, though. Boyle’s delivery isn’t bad, but he lands closed with an open front foot, which should probably be corrected. Still, the arm is clean and he’s athletic, so beyond that adjustment, he just needs innings and confidence. Hunter McMullen, RHS, Florida (2020) – I got a short look at the true freshman in relief against UCF, but he sat 92-95 mph with a solid-average slider and a clean arm, so there’s clear top-two-round potential here.