Florida, the top-ranked team in the Preseason Top 25, leads the way on Baseball America’s Preseason All-America team with two first-team members and four total players earning Preseason All-America honors.
Baseball America annually polls major league organizations’ scouting departments to vote on the team and asks that they make their selections based on performance, talent and professional potential. In the past, the Preseason All-America team has been a predictor both of the first round of the draft and of team success. Florida led all teams with six Preseason All-Americans last year and went on to win the national championship. In addition, nine members of the 2017 preseason first team became first-round draft picks last June, including College Player of the Year Brendan McKay. The lone sophomore on last year’s first team – Oregon State second baseman Nick Madrigal – projects to join them as a first-rounder this June.
After the 2016 college catching class produced three first-rounders, the position fell off in 2017 as the first collegiate backstop was taken with the 68th pick (Daulton Varsho, D-Backs). However, the class looks stronger behind the plate for the 2018 draft, especially at the top with Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart being named to the first team. Baylor sophomore Shea Langeliers was named to the second team and looks to be one of the top prospects in the 2019 class. Bart is joined on the Preseason All-America team by Florida State’s Cal Raleigh. Two Atlantic Coast Conference representatives on the Preseason All-America team harkens back to the 2016 class that saw four ACC catchers taken before any other backstop, with Zack Collins (Miami), Matt Thaiss (Virginia), Will Smith (Louisville) and Chris Okey (Clemson). The 2018 class isn’t that deep, but Bart has the talent to go in the middle of the first round.
Joey Bart, Georgia Tech
Bart was ranked No. 183 on the BA 500 in 2015 and was the first player ever drafted out of Buford (Ga.) High when the Rays selected him in the 27th round thanks his easy bat speed and above-average power potential. He made it to campus at Georgia Tech though, looking to show that he could make improvements defensively and stick behind the dish rather than move to first base-which many evaluators thought was a possibility at the time back in 2015.
Three years later, Bart is the highest-ranked catcher for the 2018 draft and has seemingly answered the questions about his defensive ability. He’s started 68 games behind the plate for the Yellow Jackets and has hit .296 or better in both his freshman and sophomore seasons in the ACC, with his power showing up in full force during 2017 with 13 home runs and a .575 slugging percentage.
His summer left a lot to be desired for scouts who saw him, but most attribute that to the fact that he was dealing with an oblique injury, and his impressive fall was one of the most talked about of any draft-eligible player in the country. If Bart continues to refine his defensive ability and cuts down on his strikeouts he will hear his name called very quickly this June.
The 2017 first team featured Pavin Smith (Virginia) at first base and Jake Burger (Missouri State) at third base. Those selections proved to be wise ones, as Smith went to the D-backs with the seventh overall selection and Burger was drafted four picks later by the White Sox at 11. The first team selections this year have some similarities with last year’s corner infielders, as Clemson’s Seth Beer has one of the better hit tools in the class and Wichita State’s Alec Bohm has some of the best raw power. Beer and Bohm currently have more questions to answer than the 2017 duo, however, although each offers tantalizing potential offensively.
Seth Beer, 1B, Clemson
Beer has arguably the most hit-dependant profile of any player in the 2018 draft class, and after a second lackluster summer with Team USA’s Collegiate National Team (where he hit .232/.368/.304) his wood bat track record leaves much to be desired. Still, scouts have previously thrown 70 grades on both his hit and power tools and his track record in the ACC is loud and impressive. He also finished last season second in the nation among Division I hitters with 64 walks.
The drawbacks with Beer are equally obvious, as he is a near bottom-of-the-scale runner and defender-whether that’s in the outfield or at first base. His arm is below-average as well, which means National League teams would have to think long and hard about taking him early. Still, it will only take one team to bet on him hitting his way to the major leagues, and another year like his Freshman of the Year campaign in 2016 could make scouting directors think awfully hard before passing him up.
Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State
Bohm has hit over .300 in his first two years with Wichita State and had an 18-game hitting streak from April through early May during his sophomore campaign in 2017. According to scouts, Bohm has some of the best raw power in the class, though it hasn’t played in-game quite as often as evaluators think it will in the future.
Coaches raved about Bohm’s ability to make adjustments and control the strike zone after a .351/.399/.513 performance with Falmouth in the Cape Cod League. He has a strong swing and is able to hit with authority when behind the count and to all fields. Bohm has defensive questions as well. Some believe he can stick at the hot corner, but he’ll have to make progress there this season and could eventually wind up at first.
The 2015 class is the recent standard for middle infield draft impact, with five shortstops selected in the first round of that class, including Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman with the first two selections. The 2018 class is more similar to the 2016 and 2017 classes in regards to middle infield talent, with just two players projected as first round talents: Nick Madrigal with Oregon State and Jeremy Eierman with Missouri State.
Jeremy Eierman, SS, Missouri State
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Missouri State infielder has a tantalizing combination of power with the ability to play shortstop that is keeping teams intrigued despite a very poor summer with Team USA. With the CNT, Eierman hit a team-low .135 in 18 games with 10 strikeouts and two walks.
His track record in the Missouri Valley Conference is impressive though, as the physical shortstop tied for fifth in the country with Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker with 23 home runs in 2017. That sort of power production at shortstop will give him a pass for a down summer, but he’ll need to improve his defensive actions and fluidity this season, as a move to third base down the future is certainly possible considering he has more than enough arm for the hot corner.
Nick Madrigal, 2B, Oregon State
Scouting directors again voted Madrigal on the first team, as they did in 2017, following his Pac-12 Conference freshman of the year campaign. He took another step in 2017, improving every triple slash category significantly, walking 11 times more than he struck out and posting the fifth-best batting average among Power 5 conference hitters.
Some teams will question his size-5-foot-7, 160-pounds-and ability to play shortstop after a spurt last season where he struggled with his throwing accuracy. Still, he’s at the top of the class in regards to hitting ability thanks to elite hands and while he doesn’t have above-average power he should collect extra bases in spades thanks to his plus speed and ability to drive the ball into the gaps.
While there’s currently not a top-of-the-first-round outfield talent in the college class, the position is deep once again for the third straight year, with each of the first team outfielders (Griffin Conine, Greyson Jenista and Travis Swaggerty) capable of hitting their way up boards by the time June rolls around.
Griffin Conine, Duke
Conine has a track record of hitting for power in-game that stacks up with anyone in the 2018 class, especially if you add in wood-bat track record. He hit 13 home runs with Duke during 2017, hit 16 home runs in the Northwoods League in 2016 and tied for the most home runs in the Cape Cod League last summer with nine.
He’s played mostly right field with Duke, and he’s most likely a corner guy at the next level. There’s some refinement that needs to come in the defensive and baserunning areas of his game, but he’s got good bloodlines as the son of former All-Star outfielder Jeff Conine and has proven as much as any power hitter in the country.
Greyson Jenista, Wichita State
Perhaps the best pure hitter among the 2018 outfield class, Jenista has hit .320 or higher in his first two seasons with Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Conference and is coming off a summer where he won the Cape Cod League MVP Award after hitting .310/.391/.401 with three home runs in his second summer with Cotuit.
His frame-6-foot-4, 240-pounds-and history playing first base for Wichita State suggest a corner position in pro ball as well, but Jenista looked better than expected in center field in the Cape and is an above-average runner underway. He’s more hit over power currently, and scouts will look for him to tap into some of that more during his junior season.
Travis Swaggerty, South Alabama
Swaggerty started in center field for Team USA, hitting .328/.449/.406 in 19 games with six stolen bases in seven attempts. A plus runner with a solid arm, good defensive ability and a plus hit tool, power is the one and only box that Swaggerty doesn’t check-although he did manage 10 home runs during his sophomore season in the Sun Belt Conference.
Swaggerty represents a high-floor player, but questions about the impact he’ll make offensively might temper expectations barring a breakout junior year. Another point of emphasis for Swaggerty will be his extra-base ability vs. same sided pitchers, as just one of his 14 collegiate home runs have come against lefthanders and his slugging percentage is significantly lower vs. southpaws (.357) than righthanders (.671).
LHP/1B Brendan McKay set the bar for collegiate utility players, and is one of just three players (along with Texas lefthander Greg Swindell and Oklahoma State third baseman Robin Ventura) to be a three-time first-team All-American. The 2017 class was remarkable for the number of highly-ranked two-way players, with McKay and Virginia OF/LHP Adam Haseley both selected among the top eight picks. With them moving on from the college ranks, however, this year’s two-way crop lacks much of the flash it has had the last few years.
Tanner Dodson, RHP/OF, California
Like McKay last year, the industry seems split on whether Dodson profiles better on the mound or with the bat at the next level. After playing in just one game as a hitter his freshman season at California, Dodson started 26 games in center field as a sophomore, hitting .299/.360/.457 while starting seven games and pitching in 12 more.
He has an unconventional setup at the plate and scouts are also mixed on whether he’s a starter or a reliever. There’s talent on both sides of the ball, but certainly room to cement his status in either direction this spring.
The 2018 college pitching class appears to be just as deep as a strong 2017 pitching crop, which had four college starters ranked among the top ten prospects in the country (Brendan McKay, Kyle Wright, J.B. Bukauskas and Alex Faedo). Florida is well-represented again this year with Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar-who made the second team-in the rotation, while the state of Florida has another pair of arms in Logan Gilbert and Shane McClanahan who have the talent to pitch into the No. 1 spot this June.
Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson
Gilbert is coming off an extremely impressive summer where he struck out 31 batters and walked just four in the Cape Cod League, posting a 1.72 ERA. According to some scouts, Gilbert was the best arm they saw on the Cape the entire summer.
The Stetson righthander features one of the best fastballs in the class that is regularly in the mid 90s and has great feel for a curveball, changeup and slider-the latter two flashing plus. He’s added weight to a still projectable 6-foot-6, 225-pound frame and his fastball plays up because of the elite extension he’s able to get in his delivery.
Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida
The top-ranked lefthander in the class, McClanahan popped up as a high schooler in the 2015 class after a massive growth spurt where he went from 5-foot-6 to 6-foot-2 in a year and a half. He’s continued to add weight to that frame and now has three potential plus pitches in a fastball, slider and changeup.
He’ll need to gain more innings this spring after missing his freshman season at South Florida recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he is coming off a 2017 season where he struck out more than 12 batters per nine innings.
Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn
Mize’s summer with Team USA was cut short by injury, which also caused him to miss a few starts in the spring. He was electric when he was on the mound, however, and his 109 strikeouts and nine walks in 83.2 innings gave him the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of any Division I pitcher.
The big question with Mize will be his health following his abbreviated summer. If he stays healthy and pitches a full season, his stuff and pitchability matches up with anyone in the class.
Brady Singer, RHP, Florida
The top overall preseason prospect in the class, Singer is looking to avoid the pitfalls of his former teammates A.J. Puk and Alex Faedo, who both entered their junior years as the top-ranked college prospect before falling on draft day.
Singer has an easy plus fastball and a slider to go with it that proved to be a lethal combination in last year’s college world series. To go along with that, Singer has excellent command and a solid track record in the Southeastern Conference.
While perhaps not as sexy as the college starters are, every year there are talented college relievers taken who wind up providing value down the line for a major league club. Florida closer Michael Byrne, the first-team choice, does not fit the profile of a power-armed reliever at the back of the bullpen, but led the country with 19 saves last year. He could be a starter in pro ball, while Mississippi’s Dallas Woolfolk and Louisville’s Riley Thompson, the second- and third-team selections, fit the traditional reliever profile better.
Michael Byrne, RHP, Florida
Byrne might have less raw stuff than previous first-team relievers, but he makes the most of his low 90s fastball with incredibly pitchability and feel for the zone. He’s walked 1.78 batters per nine or fewer in his two years with Florida and is coming off a dominate season with the Gators in which he posted a 1.67 ERA in 38 games with 93 strikeouts and just 15 walks.
🔸Best Athlete: Travis Swaggerty
🔸Best Hitter: Nick Madrigal
🔸Best Power: Seth Beer
🔸Fastest Runner: Jake McCarthy
🔸Best Fastball: Logan Gilbert
🔸Best Curveball: Tim Cate
🔸Best Slider: Brady Singer
🔸Best Changeup: Kris Bubic
🔸Best Control: Casey Mize
🔸Best Defensive Catcher: Joey Bart
🔸Best Defensive Infielder: Cadyn Grenier
🔸Best Defensive Outfielder Travis Swaggerty
C Joey Bart, Jr., Georgia Tech | .296/.420/.538
1B Seth Beer, Jr., Clemson | .298/.478/.606
2B Nick Madrigal, Jr., Oregon State | .380/.449/.532
3B Alec Bohm, Jr., Wichita State | .305/.385/.519
SS Jeremy Eierman, Jr., Missouri State | .313/.431/.675
OF Griffin Conine, Jr., Duke | .298/.425/.546
OF Greyson Jenista, Jr., Wichita State | .320/.413/.509
OF Travis Swaggerty, Jr., South Alabama | .356/.484/.571
UTL Tanner Dodson, Jr., California | .299/.360/.457
SP Logan Gilbert, Jr., Stetson | 10-0, 2.02 ERA
SP Shane McClanahan, R-So., South Florida | 4-2, 3.28 ERA
SP Casey Mize, Jr., Auburn | 8-2, 2.04 ERA
SP Brady Singer, Jr., Florida | 9-5, 3.21 ERA
RP Michael Byrne, Jr., Florida | 4-5, 1.67 ERA
UTL Tanner Dodson, Jr., California | 2-6, 5.37 ERA
C Shea Langeliers, So., Baylor | .313/.388/.540
1B Luken Baker, Jr., Texas Christian | .317/.454/.528
2B Devin Mann, Jr., Louisville | .268/.363/.434
3B Johnny Aiello, Jr., Wake Forest | .328/.417/.643
SS Cadyn Grenier, Jr., Oregon State | .275/.393/.435
OF Jake McCarthy, Jr., Virginia | .338/.425/.506
OF Tristan Pompey, Jr., Kentucky | .361/.464/.541
OF Steele Walker, Jr., Oklahoma | .333/.413/.541
UTL Tyler Holton, Jr., Florida State | .244/.300/.378
SP Tim Cate, Jr., Connecticut | 4-3, 3.33 ERA
SP Jackson Kowar, Jr., Florida | 12-1, 4.08 ERA
SP Konnor Pilkington, Jr., Mississippi State | 8-5, 3.08 ERA
SP Ryan Rolison, So., Mississippi | 6-3, 3.06 ERA
RP Dallas Woolfolk, Jr., Mississippi | 3-2, 2.15 ERA
UTL Tyler Holton, Jr., Florida State | 10-3, 2.34 ERA
C Cal Raleigh, Jr., Florida State | .227/.330/.398
1B Alfonso Rivas, Jr., Arizona | .371/.483/.531
2B Nick Dunn, Jr., Maryland | .261/.345/.384
3B Jonathan India, Jr., Florida | .274/.354/.429
SS Nico Hoerner, Jr., Stanford | .307/.357/.406
OF Carlos Cortes, So., South Carolina | .286/.368/.565
OF Jimmy Herron, Jr., Duke | .326/.412/.474
OF Alex McKenna, Jr., Cal Poly | .360/.424/.487
UTL Matt Wallner, So., Southern Mississippi | .336/.463/.655
SP Kris Bubic, Jr., Stanford | 7-6, 2.79 ERA
SP Steven Gingery, Jr., Texas Tech | 10-1, 1.58 ERA
SP Sean Hjelle, Jr., Kentucky | 11-4, 3.89 ERA
SP Blaine Knight, Jr., Arkansas | 8-4, 3.28 ERA
RP Riley Thompson, R-So., Louisville | 1-0, 4.02 ERA
UTL Matt Wallner, So., Southern Mississippi | 2-0, 1.84 ERA