Eric and I didn’t think that there would be weekly updates for the draft side of THE BOARD this early, but the information keeps rolling in. The latest updates are almost all 2019 in nature, though 2020 prep LHP Lucas Gordon was added and 2021 Florida State RF Robby Martin continues to rise. More players have been added to the others of note section at the bottom of the 2019 rankings, pushing us to well over 200 players total, but here are some notes on the ranked portion of the 2019 list:
- Andrew Vaughn is now solidly No. 2 on the list and we’ve added a Top 100 ranking for him (52nd, just behind Mets 1B Peter Alonso). Vaughn has a little less raw power than Alonso, but the hit tool, frame, and defense are all superior, to go along with Vaughn being younger and also having comparable-to-better pitch selection. We still have Oregon State C Adley Rutschman solidly at No. 1 and well ahead of Vaughn (Rutschman would be 17th on the top 100), but catchers’ development paths are notoriously non-linear, so there is a little more uncertainty with Rutschman.
- We were the high guys on UNLV SS Bryson Stott after a down summer because we saw him dominate in the previous spring. That faith has been rewarded with Stott’s hot start, so he’s stayed steady on our board at No. 5, just behind the top four players, though he’s rising for some in the industry with less history. There’s a similar story for Orlando-area prep RF Riley Greene, who showed more swing and miss late in the summer for some scouts, but has been blazing hot early and has an improved physique. He’s rising for many scouts but doesn’t have much further up to go for us.
- The second tier of college bats behind Rutschman, Vaughn, and Stott is coming into focus, with North Carolina LF Michael Busch and Texas Tech 3B Josh Jung holding their spots, UCLA 1B Michael Toglia falling dramatically, Baylor C Shea Langeliers breaking his hamate, and Missouri RF Kameron Misner joining Vanderbilt RF J.J. Bleday in taking their spots. Bleday and Misner both have the look of above average regulars, with Bleday having more hit tool and Misner with more raw power.
- On my current trip, I saw Arizona State LF Hunter Bishop twice. He has been going insane at the plate. He’s now solidly in the first round, with a chance to move into the top half if he continues at this rate (.414/.534/.948, 8 HR in 15 games) because the tools are real (65 raw power, 60 speed). Tonight, I’ll see Houston-area prep RHP Matthew Thompson, who is trending up after a velo dip, and was 93-96 mph in his last start. Wednesday, I’m planning to see dual-sport prep CFs Maurice Hampton and Jerrion Ealy in a tournament in Biloxi, Mississippi, where Hampton hit a homer on his first swing of the season. On Thursday (crosses fingers), there’s a great triple-up back in Houston, with JuCo RHP Jackson Rutledge at 2 pm, popup prep RHP Josh Wolf at 5 pm, and Thompson’s teammate RHP J.J. Goss at 7 pm; all three are projected for the top 50 picks right now. Wolf isn’t a new name, but his velo has spiked and he’s now just behind Thompson and Goss in the Houston prep arm hierarchy.
- Other risers of note include Georgia prep SS Nasim Nunez, California preps 3B Keoni Cavaco and SS Kyren Paris, and Louisville 1B Logan Wyatt. Nunez has continued performing and is now seen as a potential plus hitter, runner, defender, and thrower, so his stature and lack of power are less of a negative. Cavaco popped up in the last few weeks and is getting top-two round buzz thanks to average to above tools across the board. Paris is the youngest player on THE BOARD and, as you may guess, is developing physically later than his class peers, but just in time to rise up the rankings. Wyatt is a totally different type of player but is a draft model darling with performance, tons of walks, and low-end everyday first base tools.
- Well-known collegiate arms like Kentucky LHP Zack Thompson and TCU LHP Nick Lodolo are ticking up just a bit, but we knew they would rank in the late first/comp round area if they performed well. Some popup college arms are making bigger jumps behind them: UAB RHP Graham Ashcraft, Butler RHP Ryan Pepiot, Ball State RHP Drey Jamison, and Xavier RHP Connor Grammes. Ashcraft has developed more feel since high school and post-Tommy John, and is now showing starter traits and huge spin rates on his fastball and curve. Pepiot has a chance to start and is into the mid-90s. Jamison flashes three plus pitches at times but is still learning to harness them. Grammes was very strong (94-97 touching 98 mph with occasional plus life, a 60-flashing slider, and decent strikes) for a few innings against Arizona State until Bishop took him deep. Grammes’ arm action likely limits him to relief, but he’s a fresh-armed conversion case.
- Auburn 2B Edouard Julien was ruled eligible by MLB last week, after it appeared he wouldn’t be. On draft day, he’ll be a 20-year-old sophomore, but he had a post-grad year in Québec at age 18 that counts as a year beyond high school. With so few Québécois in college baseball, this situation hadn’t arisen much in the past. Julien has plus raw power and a late-count approach, but may be a 40-45 bat and is fringy in the infield, so could move to LF/1B.
- Another interesting eligibility case came to light yesterday in Maine prep CF Tre Fletcher. He’s transferred high schools and is set to graduate this year, but MLB hasn’t ruled on his 2019 draft eligibility yet, though he’s expected to get that soon. Fletcher repeated 9th grade, so he would be back on track for a traditional prep career with a reclassification, with a near-class-average 18.1 age on 2019 draft day should he be eligible. It’s unclear if Fletcher is reclassifying just to get to Vanderbilt a year early or to also enter the draft process, but he’ll be a tough evaluation for scouts. He was nationally scouted over the summer, standing out for his tools at East Coast Pro, but scouts weren’t bearing down on him and he’ll face very weak competition that will start in mid-April in Maine, so there won’t be a ton of certainty around his hit tool. Fletcher is similar to Rays 2015 1st round pick CF Garrett Whitley in that he has a strong frame, plus bat and foot speed, above average power potential and some questions on his hit tool. Fletcher is a high variance, high-end 40 FV for us, likely in the 50s or 60s in the overall rankings if eligible, somewhere at the end of round two, until we can learn more.
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.