Friday Five: High School Players Shooting Up Draft Boards

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Welcome to the Friday Five, where we usually take a look at some of the top performances and videos from high school players across the country.

With the 2017 MLB Draft a little over two weeks away, we figured it would be a perfect time to switch things up and instead focus on a few high school players who are shooting up draft boards. For this week’s installment we’ve asked a front office executive to fill in the “why” in regard to these prospects’ jumps. It’s important to note that while each of the following players have risen on Baseball America’s prospect rankings, that doesn’t mean they have the same helium for each individual team. The prospect rankings attempt to capture the industry consensus, but teams will obviously value players in different ways, depending on scouting and developmental philosophies, as well as a team’s individual history with a player.

With that said, let’s jump right into it:

*Rankings listed by each player represent current, updated Top 200 MLB Draft prospect rankings

No. 67 Caden Lemons | RHP | Vestavia Hills (Ala.) High

• Initial Top 100 Ranking: NR

• Initial Top 200 Ranking: 96

• The basics: The state of Alabama is loaded with top prep talent this season, and Lemons is currently the fourth player on the list—behind Bubba Thompson (18), Tanner Burns (38) and Jacob Heatherly (57)—although he is catching up to the group quickly after not being ranked in our initial Top 100. Last summer Lemons was showing good arm speed but regularly pitching in the upper 80s. After filling out his 6-foot-6 frame over the fall in winter, his stuff has ticked up and so has his potential ceiling. He is committed to Mississippi.

• Why he’s rising: “There’s a lot to like here, though your interest level might differ depending on when you see him. Caden’s body oozes projection. He has a really fast arm and can get into the mid-90s with the ability to flash a plus slider. Opinions diverge on how many strikes he’ll throw. If you think he can throw enough strikes to start—coupled with that stuff and projection—he becomes really interesting, really fast.”

No. 85 Mason House | OF | Whitehouse (Texas) High 

• Initial Top 100 Ranking: NR

• Initial Top 200 Ranking: 132

• The basics: One of the biggest pop-up players in the country this spring, House is a power-speed guy who’s performed against his high school competition (five HR, five triples, 13 stolen bases .397 average) but has a limited track record against top competition. He is committed to Oklahoma State.

• Why he’s rising: “A split-camp guy, especially depending on your history. There is a lot to like: a projectable frame with lots of room to fill out and the tools—plus raw power and a 55-grade arm—to profile in right field. He’s come a long way since last summer. The arrow is pointing up here but guys are split on the conviction level regarding the bat.”

No. 89 Tommy Mace | RHP | Sunlake (Land O’ Lakes, Fla.) High

• Initial Top 100 Ranking: NR

• Initial Top 200 Ranking: NR

• The basics: Like Lemons, Mace is a 6-6 righty who was pitching mostly in the 80s last summer, but has improved his velocity this spring, thanks in part to improved mechanics. Last summer he had a long arm action that included some wrist wrap and struggled to repeat his landing. He’s cleaned some of that up this year and his stuff has improved because of it. With Sunlake, Mace has struck out 101 batters in 77.2 innings while allowing just five earned runs. He is committed to Florida.

• Why he’s rising: “One of the best and most projectable pitching bodies in the draft, Mace has shown a better fastball of late and has held his velocity deeper into games. He has feel for a curveball and strikes, though his command could come on. The industry has loved his body and now that he’s shown better stuff, he’s moving up boards quickly.”

No. 120 Brendan Murphy | LHP | Mundelein (Ill.) High

• Initial Top 100 Ranking: NR

• Initial Top 200 Ranking: NR

• The basics: Murphy is a 6-4 lefthanded pitcher who has the makings of a strong three-pitch mix, with a fastball that sits 88-92, an above-average chance and a curveball that has potential. He’s fanned 71 batters and walked just 15 in 47.2 innings with Mundelein. He also hit higher than .500 in 115 plate appearances to lead his team in hitting, but his future at the next level is certainly on the mound.

• Why he’s rising: “His strengths include a strong, durable build and feel to pitch. There’s a lot to like when you see his physicality on the mound and the way he fills up the zone. He’s got feel for a changeup that’s gotten better over the last year and is flashing plus potential at its best. His athleticism and feel to spin are questions, but he’s coming on fast as guys feel better about his fastball velocity trending in the right direction.

No. 176 Jackson Rutledge | RHP | Rockwood Summit (Fenton, Mo.) High

• Initial Top 100 Ranking: NR

• Initial Top 200 Ranking: NR

• The basics: How fitting that Rutledge, the tallest player in our updated Top 200, attends a school called Rockwood Summit. Rutledge’s low 90s fastball has good sink and life in the bottom of the strike zone, and a slider that wasn’t much of a real weapon last year has improved this spring. He has 84 strikeouts to 23 walks in 52.2 innings this season in Missouri.

• Why he’s rising: “You walk in and see a behemoth frame at 6-8, which is the first thing that stands out when you walk into the park. His arm works and can get up to 94. You’re betting on the body and arm strength and at least an average slider. His strike-throwing bears monitoring.”

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