SEE ALSO: Preseason High School Top 50
SEE ALSO: High School Top 100 Prospects
Each year, Baseball America polls scouting directors to select preseason High School All-Americans. The first team tends to be an accurate predictor of future Major League success. In 2007, for example, the first team included Jason Heyward, Madison Bumgarner, Rick Porcello and Matt Harvey. In 2016, 11 of the 13 first-team All-Americans were selected on the first day of the draft, with first overall pick Mickey Moniak leading the way.
The group of players at the top of this year’s prep class is even better than last year’s. Talents like Hunter Greene and Royce Lewis are candidates to be selected with the first overall pick. Greene shows plus-plus raw power and promising infield actions, but his advanced repertoire of pitches has many evaluators liking him more as a pitcher. Lewis offers a unique package of plus tools from a premium defensive position.
Fellow Southern California prospects Nick Pratto and Calvin Mitchell (second team) are premium, bat-first players who could come off the board early. The outfield class has a number of elite power/speed combos, including Garrett Mitchell and Jordon Adell.
It’s a strong year for lefthanded pitching at the top, with exciting athletes leading the group. D.L. Hall was unanimously voted to the first team, and Trevor Rogers Jacob Heatherly (second team) offer starter potential and present physicality. (Click for video; photos by Bill Mitchell, Mike Janes and Alyson Boyer-Rode)
C: M.J. Melendez | Westminster Christian School, Palmetto Bay, Fla. |
Any discussion of catching in this year’s class starts with Melendez, an athletic receiver with excellent arm strength. The son of Florida International coach Mervyl Melendez, he receives outstanding reviews from scouts for his makeup and advanced game-calling ability. He’s also a lefthanded hitter with intriguing power potential. When his father got the job at FIU, MJ enrolled at Westminster Christian, a powerhouse program that also produced Alex Rodriguez, Doug Mientkiewicz and J.P. Arencibia. The historical track record of prep catchers is a testament to the risk of the demographic, but Melendez has a chance to buck that trend if he continues to improve.
As an underclassman, Pratto starred on the mound for the 18U National Team at the 2015 WBSC World Cup, guiding the Americans to a gold medal with his upper 80s fastball and befuddling changeup. While Pratto could be a weekend weapon on the mound if he chooses to enroll at Southern California, his pro future stems from his potent lefthanded bat. Pratto has solid-average raw power and exceptional strike zone awareness. He’s a strong, balanced hitter with a knack for driving the ball to the gaps. Many evaluators regard Pratto as one of the best on-base threats in the class. While Pratto is not an elite runner, he is a smooth athlete with soft hands around the bag. It’s difficult for first base prospects to profile well enough to be taken high in the draft out of high school, but Pratto’s offensive potential could be enough for teams to take a deep look at him on the first day of the draft.
Known for his highlight-reel plays on the showcase circuit, Allen is a mesmerizing defender, gifted with excellent first-step quickness, body control and uncanny infield instincts. He packs plus arm strength into his diminutive frame. While Allen’s defense will always be his calling card, several evaluators believe in his offensive ability as well. He’s naturally a righthanded hitter, and he’s shown the ability to make contact at a high rate throughout his amateur career. Allen began swinging lefthanded in the offseason, and his swing shows promise. The Southern California recruit has near-average power and is an above-average runner.
MIF: Brady McConnell | Merritt Island (Fla.) High |
High-waisted and quick-twitch are only a couple of the scouting terms that apply to McConnell. The Florida commit projects very well as he gains strength and inches towards physical maturity. McConnell has the tools and profile to catapult himself to the top of the class. He has a loose, fluid swing with plus bat speed, and in flashes has shown the ability to effectively employ that bat speed against some of the top pitching prospects in the nation. Scouts would like to see him fill into his wiry frame, and his lack of present physicality is one thing he’ll have to improve upon going forward. As a rising senior, he showed a tendency to lose balance both in his swings and in his throws. If he’s able to make the necessary strength gains, McConnell has the frame and bat speed to develop home run power, though he’s more of a doubles hitter at present. McConnell is an 70 runner and has the arm strength for the left side of the infield. If he performs well at the plate this spring, McConnell could appeal to teams as one of the most well-rounded talents in the prep class.
Multiple scouts have called Vientos a poor man’s Manny Machado. A shortstop now, Vientos projects to land at third base long term, where his plus arm strength and solid footwork could make him an above-average defender. His best attributes, however, are on offense. He has a little bit of swing and miss to his game, but makes hard contact as often as any hitter in this class, and projects as a power bat at the hot corner. Vientos transferred from Flanagan High (Pembroke Pines) to American Heritage for his senior year. He is committed to Miami.
Often times the phrase “five-tool talent” is thrown around loosely with prospects, but it’s rarely been more apt than in the case of Royce Lewis. He has been one of the best players in the nation for quite some time, and he was one of few underclassmen to receive votes in last year’s All-America voting. He has plus bat speed and raw power, he has plus arm strength and he’s a 70 runner on the 20-80 scale.
Lewis played outfield, second and third base while going 9-for-18 for USA Baseball’s 18U team last fall, helping the team win gold in the Pan Am championships. He played third base for JSerra as an underclassman and has some of the elements scouts look for at shortstop, with a chance to stick at that position long term. Lewis is also an advanced outfielder right now, with the ability to track the ball well and make highlight-reel catches in center field.
JSerra plays in the highly competitive Trinity League in California’s Southern Section. Lewis has been the league’s player of the year in each of the past two seasons, a feat that was last achieved by Austin Hedges. Lewis, a UC Irvine recruit, has a unique blend of elite pure tools, high-performance track record and makeup. He is a candidate to be taken first overall in this year’s draft.
Gerrit Cole is the only Orange Lutheran alumnus to be selected in the first round, and Mitchell has the tools to go even higher than Cole went out of high school (28th overall in 2008). Mitchell is a lefthanded hitter with plus bat speed, and he consistently makes hard contact. He has an open stance with a wide base and he tends to bar his lead arm in his load and pull off as he finishes. He hit for a high ground ball rate and almost exclusively to his pull side on the showcase circuit. Mitchell is a plus-plus runner, and can reach first base in four seconds flat. He flashes above-average arm strength with a loose arm in the outfield.
Mitchell is a Type 1 diabetic and wears an insulin pump constantly. Scouts tell Baseball America that the UCLA recruit has an advanced understanding of nutrition and takes excellent care of his body. Despite his condition and being slightly older for the class—he turns 19 in September—evaluators still see Mitchell as a likely first round pick. He receives excellent remarks for his work ethic and character.
“Athlete” is one of the first words to come up in any conversation about Adell. His father, Scott Adell, played college football at North Carolina State and was selected in the 12th round of the 1992 NFL Draft. Jo exceeds his father’s athleticism; he’s a plus-plus runner underway and flashes some of the best outfield arm strength the draft has seen in years. Adell is a righthanded hitter with plus bat speed and raw power.
Originally focused more on pitching, Adell remains raw as a position player prospect, though he made impressive strides in 2016. He’s still learning how to use his tools, and detractors question his pure hitting ability. On the mound, Adell has shown the potential for a plus fastball and a plus curveball. While he is more likely to be drafted as a position player, he could have a future on the mound. Adell is committed to Louisville.
While the class of prep pitching includes many promising righthanders, no southpaw offers quite the package of stuff that Hall does. With a loose arm and a fastball that reaches into the mid-90s, Hall would be a top of the class type of arm even if not for his menacing offspeed stuff. Hall’s knee-buckling curveball shows exceptionally late break, and scouting directors voted it as the top offspeed pitch in the class. He’s also able to locate a changeup that has above-average potential.
The Florida State recruit has the athleticism and arsenal of pitches to come off the draft board very quickly. In some respects, Hall is similar to Braves prospect Kolby Allard. Each possesses the best curveball in their respective classes, and they are similarly built—Hall weighed in at 6-foot, 180 pounds at the East Coast Pro showcase in August while Allard is a listed 6-foot-1, 180 pounds. Of the scouting directors polled, Hall was the only pitcher who was unanimously voted to the first team.
When the 18U National team needed a dominant pitching performance in the Gold Medal game at the COPABE Pan American championships, the Americans called on Crouse. The Southern California native, unfazed by the pressure of the moment, delivered the performance of his life, tossing seven scoreless innings to beat Cuba. That’s the kind of competitor Hans Crouse is.
Crouse’s eccentric mechanics and imperfect command concern some evaluators that his ultimate role may be in the bullpen, but he offers some of the most explosive pure stuff in the class. His fastball gets on hitters quickly, routinely registering in the mid-90s when he’s at full strength, and he has the arm speed to pitch in the upper 90s. His curveball shows tight rotation with 11-to-5 shape, with a spin rate in the upper 2000s, and he’s shown the ability to spot it for strikes. Crouse still has room to fill in his 6-foot-5 frame, and his stuff should profile at the back of the bullpen if he isn’t a starter long-term.
Like several other prospects on this team, Baz is a legitimate two-way prospect, though most scouts prefer his upside as a pitcher. The righthander is a promising athlete on the mound and has natural ability to spin the baseball. Baz pitches in the low-90s and can touch 95 with his fastball, but he doesn’t rely on his velocity. He throws a late-biting slider that shows fastball tilt out of the hand before taking a sharp left turn in on the hands of lefthanded batters. He also throws a more traditional top-to-bottom curveball that can sometimes morph into a more slurvy breaking ball.
The Texas Christian recruit shows promising power potential at the plate and could contribute as a two-way player if he chooses to attend college. Scouts are enthusiastic about what Baz could become if and when he focuses exclusively on pitching.
Rogers generated national buzz after a strong showing at the tryout for the Area Code Games. In Long Beach, Rogers showed off a loose and easy delivery and a lively fastball. The 6-foot-6, 185-pound lefthander struck five and walked none in three innings. Rogers followed up his strong showing at the Arizona Senior Fall Classic, where he pitched at 94-95 with plus fastball life. Rogers throws from a slightly lower three-quarters arm slot. He is well-balanced over the rubber and projects for command. His offspeed stuff is still a work in progress, but some scouts believe he will develop an above-average breaking ball as he matures. Ex-big leaguer Cody Ross, Rogers’ cousin, has been a big influence on him.
Enlow suffered a broken pelvis and a fractured ankle in a car accident during his sophomore season. Despite doubts that he would be able to return to baseball, Enlow committed himself to his rehabilitation and had a renewed focus. Now, Enlow is a first-team All-American.
Enlow made a name for himself on the national scene at last June’s Tournament of Stars, where he showed a low-90s fastball and an excellent curveball, a pitch which received votes from scouting directors for the best offspeed pitch in the class. Enlow’s hammer shows late vertical dive and impressive low 80s velocity. He has a long arm action but he’s a well-coordinated athlete with a strong core and a lithe, projectable 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame. The Louisiana State recruit won a gold medal with the 18U National team, turning in two dominant performances to guide the Americans to gold. In total, he tossed 13 innings and allowed five hits, one unearned run and struck out nine.
A candidate to be taken with the first overall pick, Greene is the domestic version of Shohei Otani, with jaw-dropping ability on the mound and in the infield. The 17-year-old looks like an Olympic skater in the infield, with smooth hands and graceful actions at shortstop. He is a below-average runner, but he’s shown improved speed this spring and he shows the range and arm strength to remain at shortstop, though some scouts project him to move to third base as he gets stronger. His calling card is his plus-plus raw power. Greene’s pure hitting ability would need to continue improving for his power to play consistently, but he has the swing elements to develop into a productive hitter for average.
On the mound, Greene possesses easy velocity with a mid-90s fastball, with reports of his fastball reaching into the triple digits early this season. His slider shows hard, frisbee-type break and the ability to miss bats even when thrown in the zone. His changeup is more than a show-me pitch; he flashes present feel for it and the pitch projects as a legitimate weapon given Greene’s thick fingers and big feet. He has excellent athleticism on the mound and throws all of his pitches for strikes. Greene is also an excellent student and is actively involved in his community, campaigning against bullying and organizing a sock drive to benefit the homeless this winter. He is committed to UCLA, but is likely to be one of the first picks in the draft.
|PRESEASON HIGH SCHOOL ALL-AMERICANS|
|C||M.J. Melendez||Westminster Christian School, Miami||6-0||173||L/R||Florida International|
|1B||Nick Pratto||Huntington Beach (Calif.) High||6-2||200||L/L||Southern California|
|MIF||Nick Allen||Francis Parker School, San Diego||5-8||155||S/R||Southern California|
|MIF||Brady McConnell||Merritt Island (Fla.) High||6-1||166||R/R||Florida|
|3B||Mark Vientos||American Heritage School, Plantation, Fla.||6-4||194||R/R||Miami|
|OF||Royce Lewis||JSerra Catholic High, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.||6-0||187||R/R||UC Irvine|
|OF||Garrett Mitchell||Orange (Calif.) Lutheran High||6-2||205||L/R||UCLA|
|OF||Jordon “Jo” Adell||Ballard High, Louisville||6-3||197||R/R||Louisville|
|LHP||D.L. Hall||Valdosta (Ga.) High||6-0||180||L/L||Florida State|
|RHP||Hans Crouse||Dana Hills High, Dana Point, Calif.||6-5||183||L/R||Southern California|
|RHP||Shane Baz||Concordia Lutheran High, Tomball, Texas||6-3||186||R/R||Texas Christian|
|LHP||Trevor Rogers||Carlsbad (N.M.) High||6-6||185||L/L||Texas Tech|
|RHP||Blayne Enlow||St. Amant (La.) High||6-3||180||R/R||Louisiana State|
|UTL||Hunter Greene||Notre Dame High, Sherman Oaks, Calif.||6-3||205||R/R||UCLA|
|C||Luis Campusano||Cross Creek High, Augusta, Ga.||5-11||216||R/R||South Carolina|
|1B||Alex Toral||Archbishop McCarthy High, Southwest Ranches, Fla.||6-0||227||L/L||Miami|
|MIF||Brice Turang*||Santiago High, Corona, Calif.||6-0||170||L/R||Louisiana State|
|MIF||Adam Hall||A.B. Lucas Secondary School, London, Ont.||6-0||161||R/R||Texas A&M|
|3B||Ryan Vilade||Stillwater (Okla.) High||6-2||196||R/R||Oklahoma State|
|OF||Quentin Holmes||Monsignor McClancy Memorial High, East Elmhurst, N.Y.||6-0||177||R/R||Mississippi State|
|OF||Calvin Mitchell||Rancho Bernardo High, San Diego||6-0||193||L/L||San Diego|
|OF||Cole Turney||Travis High, Richmond, Texas||6-0||208||L/L||Arkansas|
|LHP||Jacob Heatherly||Cullman (Ala.) High||6-1||210||L/L||Alabama|
|RHP||Alex Scherff||Colleyville (Texas) Heritage High||6-2||209||S/R||Texas A&M|
|RHP||Chris McMahon||West Chester (Pa.) Rustin High||6-1||182||R/R||Miami|
|LHP||Jake Eder||Atlantic High, Delray Beach, Fla.||6-4||209||L/L||Vanderbilt|
|RHP||Kyle Hurt||Torrey Pines High, San Diego||6-3||194||R/R||Southern California|
|UTL||Hagen Danner||Huntington Beach (Calif.) High||6-1||198||R/R||UCLA|
|C||Steven Williams||Deerfield-Windsor High, Albany, Ga.||6-3||210||L/R||Auburn|
|1B||Triston Casas*||American Heritage School, Plantation, Fla.||6-4||238||L/R||Miami|
|MIF||Jeter Downs||Monsignor Edward Pace High, Miami||5-11||186||R/R||Miami|
|MIF||Ricardo De La Torre||Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo, P.R.||5-11||175||R/R||Auburn|
|3B||Nick Egnatuk||Immaculata High, Somerville, N.J.||6-2||187||R/R||Pittsburgh|
|OF||Cole Brannen||The Westfield School, Perry, Ga.||6-0||181||L/R||Georgia Southern|
|OF||Jarred Kelenic*||Waukesha (Wisc.) West High||5-11||184||L/L||Louisville|
|OF||Heliot Ramos||Leadership Christian Academy, Guaynabo, P.R.||6-2||185||R/R||Florida International|
|RHP||Nick Storz||Poly Prep Country Day School, Brooklyn, N.Y.||6-5||255||R/R||Louisiana State|
|RHP||Tanner Burns||Decatur (Ala.) High||6-0||212||R/R||Auburn|
|RHP||Sam Carlson||Burnsville (Minn.) High||6-4||202||R/R||Florida|
|LHP||MacKenzie Gore||Whiteville (N.C.) High||6-1||170||L/L||East Carolina|
|RHP||Jeremiah Estrada||Palm Desert (Calif.) High||6-0||181||S/R||UCLA|
|UTL||Joe Perez||Archbishop McCarthy High, Southwest Ranches, Fla.||6-3||208||R/R||Miami|