This week’s installment of Draft Tracker focuses on a pair of high school position players who are looking like first-round picks and an athletic college hurler who has shown velocity in his first season back from Tommy John surgery.
Monte Harrison, of, Lee’s Summit West (Mo.) High
After the first event of the summer showcase circuit last June, Perfect Game National, a very sharp evaluator made a statement that looks quite prescient 10 months later.
“Monte Harrison is going to go in the first, he just doesn’t know it yet,” the scout said. “Athletes like that go off the board quick.”
A plus-plus athlete who has had a strong start to the spring, the Lee’s Summit West (Mo.) outfielder is one of the top athletes in the class and committed to Nebraska as a wide receiver after scoring 28 touchdowns and accruing more than 1,500 all-purpose yards as a senior. In basketball, Harrison, who reportedly has a 41 inch vertical leap and averaged more than 15 points a game as a senior, has an impressive reel of highlight dunks.
Harrison has a loud set of tools that allow evaluators to dream on what he could become after dedicating himself to baseball.
“It’s hard not to dream on the premium athletes like Monte,” an American League scout said. “You never know what they are going to turn into but he could be a perennial All-Star if everything comes together. There’s almost nothing he can’t do on the baseball field.”
Given his skill set and dual-sport commitment to Nebraska, Harrison has drawn athletic comparisons to Bubba Starling. Despite his limited time on the baseball field, Harrison has drawn praise for his baseball instincts, leaving one high-level evaluator to say Harrison has at least plus-plus instincts.
The 6-foot-2, 201-pound Harrison is a physical specimen with lean, powerful muscle on his frame. Harrison is a plus runner in the 60-yard dash, although his speed played closer to average on the showcase circuit with a swing that left him slower out of the box. But he has posted plus times this spring. He is a long-striding, gliding runner whose speed really plays underway and takes multiple bases. His arm is one of the best in the class, consistently showing plus, if not plus-plus. His physical attributes and athleticism give the chance to be a plus defender.
Although he showed some swing and miss at Tournament of Stars last summer, Harrison made a surprising amount of contact on the showcase circuit given how many baseball reps he had compared to his showcase peers. The righthanded hitter has at least plus bat speed but his larger stride occasionally left him off-balance in game action, but he showed impressive hand-eye coordination and barrel control. Harrison’s hit tool will be watched closely this spring by evaluators as the only remaining tool that is not confidently in the plus category.
Although his power was mostly to the gaps on the showcase circuit, Harrison has 70-grade raw power, according to one evaluator.
Harrison has a gregarious, energetic personality and was one of the most well-liked players among his teammates on the showcase circuit. He combines with righthander Alex Lange to give Lee’s Summit West one of the top high school teammate duos in the country.
Michael Chavis, 3b, Sprayberry High, Marietta, Ga.
In a class where many of the top position players face questions about their hitting ability, Sprayberry High (Marietta, Ga.) infielder Michael Chavis has shown an advanced hit with power ability, pushing him up draft boards as high as a 5-foot-10, 192-pound righthanded hitter without burner speed can ascend.
“I saw him take batting practices three times and I am not going back because there is nothing else to see in BP to impress me,” a National League scout said. “He hit 15 of 30 swings either in the road or over the road at Sprayberry. His eighth home run in BP hit the tower in deep right field, he ricocheted off the light tower. He went out three times to straight-away center field and bounced three over in right center field.”
“Then in the game the pitcher threw a breaking ball to the outside part of the plate and he hit a home run off the right-field scoreboard,” the scout said. “He singled back over the shortstop’s head and nearly took the pitcher’s glove off. He is so strong in his hands and wrists.”
Chavis, who won the home run derby at the Perfect Game All-American Classic, has plus raw power and explosive plus bat speed from a compact stroke. He rarely swung and missed in the zone on the showcase circuit, as nearly all of his whiffs came when he expanded the zone.
Chavis has an above-average arm that can throw from different angles and impressive body control with first-step quickness. His coordination was on display during the first round of infield at the East Coast Pro Showcase, when he backhanded a ball to his right before smoothly and quickly transferring the ball between his legs. Then a few grounders later he made one of the most impressive barehand plays of the event on a slow roller. He is currently a high school shortstop but figures to move off the position.
“I think that his best fit is at third base,” the scout said. “I don’t think his lower body is going to let him play second base. Turning the double play, the hands and feet just don’t work as well as you would like. If range was the only thing keeping Chavis off of short then I would put him at second. But there are other things preventing him from playing shortstop. One of them is the lower body.”
He is an above-average runner in the 60-yard dash who regularly posted times between 4.2- 4.35 on the showcase circuit. Chavis has drawn comparisons to Jedd Gyorko (although he runs better) because of his advanced hit tool and skill set. The Georgia commit who is older for the draft class is a high-energy, high-effort player with a gamer’s mentality who really hustles on the field.
Jeff Brigham, rhp, Washington
Brigham, a reshirt junior who did not pitch last year, has shown well in his first season since Tommy John surgery as one of the top Sunday starters in the country for a team that has pushed into the top 10.
He came out showing velocity early in the season.
“He came out at 92-96 mph that first weekend and that really got people’s attention and got him on the radar,” Washington pitching coach Jason Kelly said.
Brigham has been 90-95 in recent starts, sitting 90-93, according to scouts. He had reportedly been up to 98 before his surgery and the coaching staff said he has hit that on some guns this spring.
Brigham does not fit the traditional mold of a 6-foot, 190-pound righthander with a quick arm. Working from the far first-base side of the rubber, Brigham relies heavily on his power sinker from an arm slot at or a tick below three-quarters. He has been a groundball-oriented hurler with a 2.4 groundout-flyout ratio on the season. Some scouts have seen starts where he threw an estimated 90 percent fastballs, more than three-fourths of which are two-seamers.
“I would say going into this weekend he is probably at 75-78 percent fastball range,” Kelly said. “If you were to picture him as a big leaguer, he is that Tim Hudson-type guy with heavy sink. He throws 92-94 mph sinkers.”
His peripherals do not support his 1.77 ERA, but he has thrown strikes effectively with 2.0 walks per-nine. Yet he has a very low strikeout rate at 4.1 per-nine, which is 12.3 percent of all hitters.
“I feel like once he develops the four-seamer and it is something he can go to at 96-97 mph that he can elevate, he is going to have the ability to strike people. But he is not there yet,” Kelly said.
The growth of his offspeed offerings will be key developmental points of emphasis, with his breaking ball presently his top secondary pitch.
“He is going to have a major league average slider and who knows? As he develops it could be an above-average pitch,” Kelly said. “When it is really good it is in the 84-86 mph range. That is the number we want. At times when he gets tired it is an 80-83 mph offering with depth. It is not a true slider but it is not a slurve. It has a chance to be really good. The slider is ahead of the changeup.”
Brigham is a well-built 190 pounds with broad shoulders and strength throughout his frame. He is an impressive athlete.
“He is great athlete that was a very good high school basketball player and he can dunk,” Kelly said. “He is one of our fastest sprinters. We run the timed mile when he came back in January and he ran a mid-four minute mile. He has great kinetic awareness. I would think he is a 6.6 runner.”
There is a belief in scouts circles that Brigham could be a split-camp prospect because of his size, well below-average strikeout rate and nascent offspeed stuff.