Since very early in the spring, Hunter Greene and Brendan McKay have been the top two prospects in the 2017 draft class.
Now, Greene hasn’t pitched for a month, and while teams are still scouting him heavily while he plays shortstop for Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks, Calif., he’s still going out as a pitcher, and teams like the Twins, picking No. 1 overall, have had to make their evaluations already. Not it’s all about what it would cost if Minnesota were to make Greene the first high school righthander ever drafted No. 1 overall.
Meanwhile, McKay has changed in the last month, adding a cut fastball and pitching with diminished velocity. Against Georgia Tech on April 13, he pitched much of the game at 88-91 mph but one-hit the Yellow Jackets over eight shutout innings. Then last weekend against Clemson, in five shutout innings, McKay threw plenty of cutters—a pitch he just broke out April 28 against Toledo—as his fastball dipped into the 88-90 range. Despite that velocity drop, McKay is striking out more batters than ever, ranking eighth nationally with 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings and 110 strikeouts overall.
Can a pitcher throwing with that velocity, even one as accomplished as McKay, be drafted No. 1 overall in an era where some teams consider a 90-91 mph fastball merely average for lefthanders? And what if he’s more under consideration now as a first baseman, what with 15 home runs and a .366/.484/.691 line for the season?
Other key questions for the first round:
• How many high school outfielders will fall to the 25-65 range and sign for over-slot deals?
• How far will Vanderbilt’s Jeren Kendall fall? His poor contact rate continues to push his draft stock down.
• What college hitters are rising in his place? We have a new name in the first round this week.
Minnesota appears to be leaning toward McKay, but considering him as much now as a hitter as on the mound. Some evaluators agree that McKay has more looseness at the plate than he does on the mound, and may have more upside as a hitter, but that he’s a safer bet on the mound.
However, the best combination of upside and modest risk is Vanderbilt righthander Kyle Wright, who is the third player on the Twins’ list in addition to McKay and Greene. The Twins have been in hard on Wright’s last three starts, and in his last five, he’s struck out 51 and walked seven in 39.1 innings while posting a 1.14 ERA. He’s showing up to four plus pitches at times and trending toward being the No. 1 overall pick, as long as the price is right.
Pick: Kyle Wright, rhp, Vanderbilt |
The Reds have been consistent. They’ll either pick Greene or McKay at two and lean toward McKay as a pitcher, even if his velocity has been iffy when Cincinnati’s front office has rolled deep in to see him. The Reds are still in on Greene heavily, but are thought to lean McKay.
Pick: Brendan McKay, 1b/lhp, Louisville |
This could be a fine scenario for both sides, though the Padres also are said to be in heavy on MacKenzie Gore, the North Carolina prep lefthander. The Padres are seen as a wild card at the top of the draft, and also could cut a deal here with players such as New Mexico prep lefty Trevor Rogers if it allows them more flexibility for deals in later rounds.
Pick: Hunter Greene, rhp, Notre Dame High, Sherman Oaks, Calif. |
In Best Player Available mold, Tampa Bay could wind up with the draft’s best position player in SoCal star Royce Lewis, whether he stays at shortstop or winds up in center field. This is the floor for McKay.
Pick: Royce Lewis, if/of, JSerra Catholic HS, San Juan Capistrano, Calif. |
Atlanta covets Wright, but he’s not getting to them. That leaves the prep pitcher class, and the Braves are among the teams impressed by the significant spring performance of Texas prep righty Shane Baz, who has improved his stock as much as any pitcher in the class other than Gore.
Pick: Shane Baz, rhp, Concordia Lutheran HS, Tomball, Texas |
Oakland hasn’t picked a prep pitcher in the first round since Jeremy Bonderman, but its scouts have criss-crossed North Carolina all spring, and Gore has such significant athletic ability and projection that they aren’t likely to pass him up. Gore would be the third first-rounder out of Whiteville (N.C.) High and the first since the small school produced back-to-back first-rounders in 1985-86 (Tommy Greene, Patrick Lennon).
Pick: MacKenzie Gore, lhp, Whiteville (N.C.) High |
Arizona is in on college performers, and very few have performed like Haseley, who—as we noted a month ago—has shot past Kendall as the top college outfielder on most teams’ boards. Three of the top four college outfielders on the board—Haseley, Wake Forest’s Stuart Fairchild and North Carolina’s Brian Miller—play in the ACC, and the latter two are likely to go in the first 50 overall picks.
Pick: Adam Haseley, of, Virginia |
Haseley’s teammate Pavin Smith remains the pick here. Smith’s relative struggles in ACC play (.288/.387/.423, 3 HR) may have cooled some of the analytical ardor for him, but his 31-8 BB-SO ratio overall makes up for it.
Pick: Pavin Smith, 1b, Virginia |
Milwaukee has drafted toolsy outfielders in the first round two drafts in a row, but North Carolina prep Austin Beck may have more 7s on his scouting card than either Trent Clark or Corey Ray. If Milwaukee shifts away from bats, they’re in on arms such as North Carolina’s J.B. Bukauskas or prep lefties such as D.L. Hall or Trevor Rogers.
Pick: Austin Beck, of, North Davidson High, Lexington, N.C. |
GM Billy Eppler’s scouting rounds have led to the Angels being tied to several players, but with Mike Trout’s clock ticking, the Angels don’t have time to wait on a toolsy prep outfielder like Beck or Jordon Adell.
Pick: J.B. Bukauskas, rhp, North Carolina |
11. White Sox
If the White Sox go toolsy outfielder, Louisville’s prep phenom Adell makes sense here. But the Sox also have scouted the college pitching aces hard and may wind up in that bucket with their first pick, looking preps in the second round.
Pick: Alex Faedo, rhp, Florida |
Pittsburgh hasn’t drafted and signed a pitcher in the first round since 2011 when it took Gerrit Cole first overall. Their confidence in their ability to develop pitchers from later picks leads the Pirates to the college hitter phylum, and while they could snag Kendall, they likely will go for a player with better plate discipline. That would be UC Irvine’s Keston Hiura, who is more athletic than rival college bats such as Jake Burger.
Pick: Keston Hiura, 2b/of, UC Irvine |
The tight-lipped Marlins went with a consensus pick last year in Braxton Garrett after going off the board for Josh Naylor in 2015. They’ve had more success when they’ve drafted pitchers in the first round of late and could go the prep lefty route again.
Pick: D.L. Hall, lhp, Valdosta (Ga.) HS |
Kansas City has a rebuild looming, in part because of its push to win consecutive American League pennants and the 2015 World Series. Trades depleted the system, and some high picks have not worked out. Rogers, the New Mexico prep lefty, has one of the higher ceilings left on the board.
Pick: Trevor Rogers, lhp, Calsbad (N.M.) HS |
If Hiura makes it this far, Houston will snap him up. The next college bat on the board will either be Burger or Kendall, and the guess here is Houston would go for upside with the Vanderbilt outfielder, whose tools and profile resemble current Astros farmhand Derek Fisher.
But the rumors of Kendall’s fall keep growing; he could slip past this, with teams in the back of the first round bearing down on him down the stretch. If Vanderbilt has a long SEC tournament run, Kendall will be under the microscope.
Pick: Jeren Kendall, of, Vanderbilt |
New York has been linked to preps this spring such as Huntington Beach first baseman Nick Pratto and Alabama prep outfielder Bubba Thompson, who’s likely to go in the 16-23 range. Pratto’s relatively modest spring offensively has pushed him down lists a bit.
Pick: Bubba Thompson, of, McGill-Toolen Catholic HS, Mobile, Ala. |
Seattle doesn’t get many chances to pick (relatively) local, but Oregon lefthander David Peterson has pitched his way into the middle of the first round and has the present control and command to move quickly.
Pick: David Peterson, lhp, Oregon |
Detroit has eyes on arms but in this scenario, Missouri State’s Jake Burger is available, with some of the best power on the whole board. The Tigers are the high point for injured South Carolina righthander Clarke Schmidt, who had Tommy John surgery earlier this month. His brother Clate pitches in the organization.
Pick: Jake Burger, 3b, Missouri State |
San Francisco also could be in on Schmidt, who rivaled Erick Fedde in terms of stuff and profiles similarly as an injured college ace who could go in the first round despite Tommy John surgery. The Giants also are the high point for North Carolina outfielder Brian Miller, a college performer with great Cape Cod League history whose overall profile resembles that of current Giants center fielder Denard Span. Another option could be split-camp Georgia prep catcher Luis Campusano, though most teams see him more in the supplemental to second-round range.
Pick: Clarke Schmidt, rhp, South Carolina |
Pratto won’t fall that far despite his iffy spring, as scouts still consider him one of the better pure hitters in the class. However, he didn’t show well on big stages at the NHSI and Boras Classic this year, at least at the plate. His long track record of success keeps him in the first round.
Pick: Nick Pratto, 1b/of, Huntington Beach (Calif.) HS |
Some scouts compare North Carolina shortstop Logan Warmoth to current Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy, and the two have overall similar profiles. If the Orioles don’t zig and go prep outfielder as some clubs believe, Warmoth makes total sense as a high-floor college performer.
Pick: Logan Warmoth, ss, North Carolina |
22. Blue Jays
The college performer moving up is Kentucky’s Evan White, a premium defender at first base and USA Baseball Collegiate National Team alum who has helped lead the Wildcats to a top 10 season. In SEC play, White has hit .387/.452/.602 in 93 at-bats.
Pick: Evan White, 1b, Kentucky |
Los Angeles has thrived in recent drafts behind scouting director Billy Gasparino and his team, with domestic talents such as Walker Buehler, Mitchell White and Will Smith off to very strong starts. White and Thompson, already off the board here, are Dodger targets, but in Best Player mode, they would choose between college arms such as Missouri’s Tanner Houck, whose stock has started to rebound, and UCLA’s Griffin Canning.
Pick: Griffin Canning, rhp, UCLA |
24. Red Sox
Boston wants some upside at 24 and Houck would bring it to them. He could move quickly in a relief role but is starting to look like the second coming of Jake Peavy again with his velocity and location on his sinking fastball starting to rebound.
Pick: Tanner Houck, rhp, Missouri |
No big league contender needs bullpen help like the Nationals, and no one in the draft can help more this year than troubled lefthander Seth Romero, who was kicked off Houston’s team earlier this month. He’s represented by the Boras Corporation, which has a good relationship with Nats management.
Pick: Seth Romero, lhp, no team
Scouting directors expect the run on high-ceiling prep talent to start here, with the teams that have multiple picks as Texas, Toronto and Chicago (NL) all have their first two selections between picks 22 and 30. Texas could be aggressive here with a prep such as Minnesota’s Sam Carlson, who has flashed mid-90s velocity, or rising Texas prep outfielder Tristan Lutz.
Pick: Sam Carlson, rhp, Burnsville (Minn.) HS
Everyone knows the Cubs crave pitching, and if Houck or Canning fall to this spot, they’d jump. Usually the Cubs hunt fastballs more than this, but the pitchability and projectability of Louisiana prep righty Blayne Enlow may be too much for the Cubs to avoid. The Cubs also have been linked to dazzling, diminutive San Diego prep infielder Nick Allen.
Pick: Blayne Enlow, rhp, St. Amant (La.) HS |
28. Blue Jays
Toronto won’t be able to avoid Lange here, even though his fastball more frequently has topped out at 93 rather than the 96 he’s shown in previous years. Fastball command is a bigger issue for Lange than velocity, but his plus curve has allowed him to still strike out 10.8 per 9, higher than his career rate coming into the season.
Pick: Alex Lange, rhp, Louisiana State |
Texas isn’t shy about prep talent even with both of its first-rounders, with California rising prep righty Matt Sauer a likely candidate.
Pick: Matt Sauer, rhp, Righetti HS, Santa Maria, Calif.
One of the Northeast’s late risers is prep outfielder this year is athlete Quentin Holmes, a potential power-speed threat OK.
Pick: Quentin Holmes, of, McClancy Memorial HS, East Elmhurst, N.Y. |
Supplemental First Round
Tampa Bay takes a college bat while it still has a chance to get one it wants.
Pick: Stuart Fairchild, of, Wake Forest
Hello, Jo Adell . . . The Reds can go over-slot for Adell as they did for Trammell last season.
Pick: Jordon Adell, of, Ballard HS, Louisville |
If you want a college bat and don’t have a deal with a prep, this is the place to act.
Pick: Brian Miller, of, North Carolina |
After taking Austin Beck with their first pick, we’re going portfolio approach with a college arm here. Corbin Martin, who has thrived since returning to Texas A&M’s rotation.
Pick: Corbin Martin, rhp, Texas A&M
Minnesota was in heavy at the Florida junior colleges, with lefty Brendon Little and righty Nate Pearson the top options.
Pick: Nate Pearson, rhp, Central Florida JC |
Toolsy outfielders start to dominate the board.
Pick: Heliot Ramos, of, Leadership Christian Academy, Guaynabo, P.R. |