2019 Early Draft Preview
February 11, 2019
Junior college baseball has begun. The Division I season kicks off on Friday. High schools in warm-weather states are opening their seasons. The 2019 MLB Draft is 112 days away. As we jump into the spring with both feet, here are some draft questions to consider.
Texas is always about arms when it comes to the high school crop and 2019 is no different. With another arms race shaping up in the Lone Star State, who are the favorites to go early and who could make a jump?
There are 10 high school arms from Texas in the current High School Draft 100. Six of them made the initial 2019 PBR Draft Board. As of February, RHPs Matthew Thompson and J.J. Goss—teammates at Cypress Ranch—rank as the best and are the could be Day 1 picks with good springs. Both can run their fastballs into the low 90s and mix in a sharp breaking stuff, but consistency will key for them. A little further down the list, RHP Blake Mayfield (Marcus HS, TX) and LHP Bodi Rascon (Decatur HS, TX) offer athleticism, projection and loose arms that could lead to a jump up draft boards in the coming months.
Weather is always a frustrating factor for scouts and prospects in northern states. Favorable conditions lead to more looks, giving scouts more information and conviction when evaluating players in the affected regions. Who could benefit most from a happy Mother Nature?
If the weather holds, OF Jason Hodges (Marist HS, IL) could continue to see his stock rise, a trend that started late last summer. In the Northeast, OFs Sam Siani (William Penn Charter School, PA) and Chris Newell (Malvern Prep, PA) could also benefit from favorable weather.
There are several power bats in the high school class. Which one will get popped first?
OF Riley Greene (Hagerty HS, FL) has long been considered one of, if not the, best bats in the class. He is the favorite to go first in a group that includes 3B Brett Baty (Lake Travis HS, TX), 3B Tyler Callihan (Providence School, FL) and 3B Rece Hinds (IMG Academy, FL). Each has questions about where they’ll wind up defensively and Baty’s age will likely be a factor. Callihan could rival Greene in the hit tool argument and has flirted with shifting behind the plate.
The California high school class lacks the punch it’s had the last couple years, but there is still talent to be found. The question is, who will be the first prep off the board?
LHP/1B Spencer Jones (La Costa Canyon HS, CA) is currently the No. 1 prospect, but he’s a two-way player with a Vanderbilt commitment so the asking price may be high. SS Kyren Paris (Freedom HS, CA) is one of the youngest players in the draft, turning 18 after it, and has solid tools across the board. SS Brooks Lee (San Luis Obispo HS, CA) has proven he has one of the better overall hit tools as a switch-hitter. RHP Derek Diamond (Ramona HS, CA) de-committed from Stanford and committed to Mississippi after the video above was recorded. His projection, athleticism and multi-sport background makes him an easy candidate to climb boards this spring. IF Glenallen Hill (Santa Cruz HS, CA) is a wildcard with a big league pedigree and elite speed. If he finds consistency at the plate, he has the raw tools to be an early pick.
How will the greatest strength of this year’s draft, college bats, play out?
Barring injury, slam dunks include C Adley Rutschman (Oregon State), C Shea Langeliers (Baylor), 1B Andrew Vaughn (California) and 3B Josh Jung (Texas Tech). Others likely to be drafted in the first round are shortstops Bryson Stott (UNLV), Will Holland (Auburn), Will Wilson (North Carolina State), Braden Shewmake (Texas A&M) and Logan Davidson (Clemson), outfielders J.J. Bleday (Vanderbilt), Kameron Misner (Missouri), Kyle Stowers (Stanford) and Matt Wallner (Southern Mississippi) and 1B Michael Busch (North Carolina) is an analytics dream. Overall, 14 college bats have a legitimate chance to be selected within the first 32 picks.
Who could be the 2018 Jonathan India or the 2017 Adam Haseley—a second- to third-round preseason prospect rising into the top 10 overall?
Heading into the 2018 season, India was classified as “not the guy you want with your first pick, but could make a nice second- to third-round pick.” With a loaded draft class of college bats in 2019, it may be a little more difficult for a second- to third-round prospect to make that kind of jump. However, the industry reacts to big seasons and if a guy has a big season, he will go high. Staying mostly with hitting ability and infielders, since that profile is typical for college prospects who generate the most helium, our top picks include Chase Strumpf (UCLA), Josh Smith (Louisiana State), Austin Shenton (Florida International) and Nick Quintana (Arizona). We also like outfielders Will Robertson (Creighton) who has put up good numbers in a cold weather environment, in a pitcher friendly park and with an offense that is not designed to produce standout individual statistics. Also, OF Austin Langworthy (Florida) has a similar profile to Haseley and could develop the plate discipline and power that Haseley showed during his draft year. Finally, two right-handed pitchers come to mind as we believe both are currently undervalued by the industry: Kenyon Yovan (Oregon) and George Kirby (Elon).
Who are some of the relievers turned starters looking to increase their draft stock this spring?
Besides those we mentioned in our January 9 Mailbag, there are several more and the trend seems accelerated out west. Numerous candidates such as Ryan Jensen (Fresno State), Casey Legumina (Gonzaga), Riley Ornido (San Francisco) and Austin Roberts (Sacramento State) all pitched either exclusively out of the pen or were part-time starters who are scheduled to jump into the weekend rotation. From the middle of the country 2018 part-time starters Caleb Kilian (Texas Tech) and Davis Daniel (Auburn) look to advance to a full-time starting role, while converted arms Kurt Wilson (Texas Tech), John Matthews (Kent State) look to leave an early round impression. Exclusive pen arms in 2018 like Jake Eissler (Texas Christian) and Jeff Criswell (Michigan) will also look to make the jump to starting. In the East, Bryce Jarvis (Duke) and Tristin English (Georgia Tech) lead the way. English, in particular, could have a huge season after showing stuff and performance in the Cape this summer and he will be nearly two years removed from TJ surgery.
There were a lot of big performances in the Cape Cod League last summer. Will they turn into high-round draft gems or did they just have a good summer?
A lot of the same names here as mentioned in the questions above, but of this group our picks to ride the summer wave and lead the charge to the first half of Day 1 are Robertson, English, Kirby and Shenton. If Nelson successfully makes the conversion from pen to starter, he too will join this group.
Who are the top prospects that have battled health issues in the past and must stay healthy this season to prove their worth? Last spring the college season saw 13 of the top 53 pre-season ranked prospects suffer injuries ranging from 10 days to the entire season. Top rebound candidates this spring include LHP Zack Thompson (Kentucky) who has battled injuries throughout his college career, but looked 100 percent in short stints for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team last summer. After helping lead the Gators to the 2017 national title as a freshman, RHP Tyler Dyson was limited to 50 innings in 2018. Smith, RHP Luca Dalatri (North Carolina), and RHP Dalton Feeney (North Carolina State) all missed most or all of 2018. Misner missed more than half of the 2018 spring season and the entire summer circuit recovering from a foot injury and Strumpf, who missed the summer recovering from a late season ailment.