(No. 2 MLB Draft college prospect Nick Madrigal)
Fall ball has begun around the country and preparations for the 2018 draft are underway as well.
As the 2018 draft class takes shape, Baseball America this week is unveiling the top 50 prospects in the high school and college ranks. The college class' strength is once again pitching, but there are also some intriguing hitters who distinguished themselves over the summer with USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team and in the Cape Cod League.
For the third year in a row, a Florida pitcher tops Baseball America's initial college draft prospects ranking. Righthander Brady Singer follows in the footsteps of former teammates A.J. Puk and Alex Faedo as the top-ranked player in the class.
Singer, who will take over as the Gators' ace this spring, will hope to parlay his early ranking into being the first college player drafted, something neither Puk nor Faedo was able to do. Singer sat out this summer after going 9-5, 3.21 with 129 strikeouts in 126 innings and helping Florida win the first national championship in program history this spring. Listed at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, he throws his fastball in the low to mid 90s with plenty of run and sink, and he adds in a sharp slider with a changeup in reserve. Singer was the 56th overall pick in the 2015 draft and was expected to sign, but negotiations fell apart and he ended up at Florida, where he has continued to develop.
In addition to Singer, the state of Florida has several premium pitchers in the college class. Righthander Jackson Kowar could give the Gators two first round picks for the second time in three years. South Florida's Shane McClanahan is regarded as the top lefthander in the class, and Stetson righthander Logan Gilbert broke out with a strong sophomore season and an excellent showing this summer on the Cape.
The class' position players present scouts with more of a puzzle, as many of the top players come with question marks. Oregon State infielder Nick Madrigal may be the class' best hitter, but he is also listed at just 5-foot-7. Sluggers such as Luken Baker, Seth Beer and Alec Bohm provide plus power, but profile best as first basemen, typically not one of the most desirable demographics in the draft. Even outfielders Travis Swaggerty and Steele Walker, two of the top hitters this summer on the Collegiate National Team, are not viewed as safe picks.
With so many unanswered questions, the top of the college class figures to be fluid at least for the next six months as scouts work to bear down on the top players. Baseball America will continue to update its draft lists—compiled by the BA staff in consultation with major league scouts and other evaluators—regularly leading up to the beginning of the 2018 draft on June 4.