MLB Mock Draft
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By Carlos Collazo
While the 2019 draft is far from the main concern for most baseball fans in mid-December, scouting directors are spending much of their time over the holidays pouring over reports from scouts and cross-checkers, lining up priority players and locking in travel plans for the spring.
“I think we’re always trying to do whatever we can to better position ourselves for June,” said one American League scouting director. “While guys aren’t out playing right now, it’s about reading our reports from the summer, talking to our scouts, looking forward to the spring and starting to think about schedules.
“Scouts are getting into the homes and meeting with players. It’s really all about preparation. The spring is about the results of the work we do now. It’s more research-based and planning-based, and obviously over the course of meetings and leading up to the spring we will talk about the players we need to be most focused on.”
With that in mind — and since the draft is always on our minds here at Baseball America — we figured it would be fun to do a Way Too Early 2019 Mock Draft and take a look at how the class has shaped up to this point.
None of these players are specifically tied to the following teams, because scouting directors would laugh us off the phone if we asked who they were targeting for the back of the first round on December 20, but we did try to match players’ current industry value with teams that might make sense for them if things remain static for six months. Spoiler: That won’t happen.
“I would say obviously there is not a ton of clarity at this point,” the scouting director said. “It looks to be another solid class. I don’t think we are seeing quite the level of high school depth that (we had last year). There are certainly some exciting high school arms, some exciting high school bats, but maybe not quite the volume of mid-first round caliber guys that we saw last year.
“Like any year, those guys will start to separate themselves as we go into the year. It seems like there is more depth at the college level right now—especially at the positing player area ... There seems to be a good level of depth of (college) players who could play their way into the better part of the first round.”
The consensus top prospect in the country is still Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, while Colleyville (Texas) High shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. takes the top spot for the high school class. At this point, both of those players are the favorites to be the first names off the board, though much can change leading up to June.
With all of that being said, here are players that every team in baseball outside of Boston (sorry Red Sox fans) could wind up with next June, and our rationale for every pick:
- 1Oregon State CNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: Rutschman is more cemented into the No. 1 overall prospect slot than Florida righthander Brady Singer was at this time last year. And there’s as much consensus among teams in mid-December with Rutschman being the 1-1 favorite as there was with Auburn righthander Casey Mize at the midway point of the 2018 college season.
- 2Coleyville (Texas) Heritage High School SSNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: The top high school prospect in the country started his season yesterday, with many Texas schools opening up play this week. Witt still has arguably the best overall profile in the class when it comes to playing a premium position at a high level, with plus power and speed. If he hits at a high level this spring, he should be the pick here behind Rutschman.
- 3California 1BNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: Vaughn is doing Golden Spikes sort of things early this season. After four games in the Angels College Classic in Arizona, Vaughn is hitting a whopping .455/.700/1.000 with a pair of home runs and an unseemly 1:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The short, right-right first base profile is a tough one that hasn’t historically been borne out with a lot of success, but Vaughn is such a complete hitter that he could become the highest-drafted college first baseman since 1998, when Pat Burrell was taken with the No. 1 overall pick by the Phillies. Brendan McKay’s No. 4 selection in 2017 is the mark to beat, though if you don’t want to count McKay given his two-way nature, the next-best mark is No. 7. Virginia 1B Pavin Smith (Diamondbacks, 2017), Miami 1B Yonder Alonso (Reds, 2008) and Florida 1B Matt LaPorta (Brewers, 2007) were all selected with the seventh pick in their respective drafts. It would be surprising if Vaughn wasn’t selected before that.
- 4Hagerty HS, Oviedo, Fla. OFNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: While the White Sox have leaned towards the college ranks, Miami has preferred high school prospects with its last five first-round picks. A bat-first corner outfielder, most of Greene’s value comes from his offensive production, but he hits for average and power and is the best hitter in the 2019 prep class.
- 5Blessed Trinity HS, Roswell, Ga. SSNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: It wouldn’t be shocking to see Abrams off the board before No. 5, given his elite speed, contact ability and defensive potential up the middle. Given the state of Detroit’s rebuild, taking a shot on a high-upside, lefthanded hitter with dynamic leadoff abilities could be smart.
- 6Lakeside HS, Seattle OFNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: Like the Marlins, the Padres have frequently gone to the high school ranks at the top of the draft. Carroll has a hit tool that challenges Greene’s, with the added bonus of plus speed that should allow him to profile as a center fielder moving forward.
- 7Baylor CNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: Langeliers could easily be off the board at this point, considering his status as the No. 3 college prospect in the class. The Reds routinely go best player available and Langeliers’ has an all-around skill set and no glaring weaknesses in his game. Outside of position, that sounds a lot like Reds 2018 first-round pick Jonathan India.
- 8Jackson (Miss.) Prep HS OFNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: Perhaps the biggest reach on the board to this point, Ealy fits the profile of many Rangers first-round prospects in that sense that he’s overflowing with tools. There is some risk here, as Ealy is a four-star running back committed to play football and baseball at Mississippi, but he has plus speed, plus raw power and plus arm strength. He shares some similarities with 2017 Rangers first-round pick Bubba Thompson (who also played football at a high level) but with a better feel for getting the barrel on the ball.
- 9Duke LHPNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: No team develops and drafts arms like the Braves, so let's give them the first pitcher off the board. There are a pair of big-time prep righthanders who could make sense in Brennan Malone and Daniel Espino, but it also seems hard for a college lefthander with Stinson’s size and stuff to not go inside the top 10 of this draft. Atlanta’s last five first-round selections have all been pitchers, and going back to 2009 the Braves have had 10 first-round picks—nine of which were pitchers.
- 10Texas Tech 3BNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: This could be low for Jung, who has hit .350/.445/.549 with 18 home runs in two seasons with Texas Tech. If he posts another stellar offensive campaign as a junior, it’s easy to see him going off the board earlier than this. But San Francisco might be happy to get a pair of elite college bats in back-to-back drafts among the top-10 picks.
- 11Auburn SSNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: The Blue Jays have selected shortstops with their first picks in each of the last two drafts, and that should be a position of strength for the 2019 class. Holland has solid power for his size and plus running ability, and he’s coming off of a strong sophomore season in which he hit .313/.406/.530 with 12 home runs at Auburn. He also had a loud summer in the Cape Cod League, where he hit .341/.431/.432 in 13 games before leaving with a wrist injury.
- 12Kentucky LHPNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: The Mets have gone the college route with four of their last five first-round selections. The only high school player the team did draft in that time span—outfielder Jarred Kelenic— is already out of the organization after being traded six months after he was selected. Thompson profiles as a mid-rotation starter, if healthy, and looked good for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team this summer. With a strong junior campaign and improved strike-throwing, Thompson could take advantage of a subpar college pitching crop and join an organization built on arms.
- 13IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla. RHPNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: Malone has big-time stuff and could go much higher or much lower than this depending on what happens during the spring. Still, he’s seen by many as the best arm in the prep class with a fastball that gets into the upper 90s, a projectable arm action and major league frame. Transferring to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., will allow Malone to be seen early and often by front office decision-makers, which will give him a greater leverage index to move up or down lists, depending on how he performs.
- 14Georgia Premier Academy, Statesboro, Ga. RHPNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: The counterpart to Malone in the prep pitching ranks for the 2019 class, Espino has louder current stuff, but it comes in a shorter frame with an arm action that scouts are less keen on. Still, Espino touched 100 mph this summer and is regularly in the upper 90s with life on his fastball. He also has a pair of breaking balls that have shown potential to be plus offerings with an elite lower half to drive his body off the mound and a balanced finish to his delivery.
- 15IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla. 3BNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: Hinds figures to be an enigma for many teams throughout the draft process. He’s got louder tools than perhaps any player in the class, with the most raw power of any prospect in the prep ranks as well as plus arm strength. At the same time, Hinds has struggled defensively at both third base and shortstop, and he swings and misses too often. Los Angeles has gone with big-time tools at the cost of heavier risk with their last two first-round picks in outfielders Jo Adell (2017) and Jordyn Adams (2018).
- 16NC State SSNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: Scouts rave about Wilson’s character and makeup, but what the D-backs might especially be drawn to is Wilson’s feel to hit. Wilson has posted back-to-back seasons with a .300-or-better batting average at North Carolina State, and he has surprising power given his 6-foot, 175-pound frame. Arizona has prioritized the hit tool in recent drafts, selecting Virginia first baseman Pavin Smith in 2017 and then going with the trio of shortstop Matt McLain and outfielders Jake McCarthy and Alek Thomas with their first three picks in 2018.
- 17No School RHPNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: On talent, Stewart ranks ahead of all the prep pitchers in the 2019 class and most of the college pitchers as well, but his wrist situation could muddy the waters. For a team that wants to take a chance, Stewart has two potential 70-grade offerings, including an elite curveball. The Nationals have never been afraid to take a chance on an arm with injury questions in the first round. This one is also tricky because Stewart’s grievance has yet to be settled after he and the Braves didn’t agree to a signing bonus last June.
- 18Florida RHPNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: The Pirates haven’t drafted a college arm with a first-round pick since 2012, when they selected Mark Appel—who didn’t sign—with the No. 8 overall pick. The year prior, it was UCLA righthander Gerrit Cole with the No. 1 overall selection. Dyson has plenty of starter traits and pitched well this summer after a shoulder injury limited his production during the spring. Florida has as good a track record as any program in regards to producing arms. If Dyson goes here, that would be three straight Gators pitchers selected with the No. 18 pick, following righthanders Alex Faedo (Tigers, 2017) and Brady Singer (Royals, 2018).
- 19Texas Christian LHPNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: Lodolo didn’t sign with the Pirates after being selected with the 41st pick in 2016, instead opting to attend Texas Christian. He’s been solid for the Horned Frogs, posting a 4.34 ERA over 155.2 innings, but not as dominant as he was expected to be. With a 6-foot-6, 180-pound frame that still has projection and a solid three-pitch mix, Lodolo is a candidate to shoot up draft boards with a breakout junior campaign.
- 20Nevada-Las Vegas SSNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: The Mariners routinely select from the college ranks, as seven of their last eight first-round picks have been players out of four-year universities. In this scenario, they take the college shortstop who handled the position for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, impressed coaches with his defensive aptitude and has hit .333/.405/.474 in two seasons in the Mountain West Conference.
- 21Seminole (Fla.) HS RHPNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: The Braves have two picks in the first round, so one has to be a high school righthander, right? Allan has a big fastball that’s reached the mid-90s and a hammer, 12-to-6 curveball. Both offerings project as future plus pitches, and Allan also has a physical, 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame that Atlanta could find appealing.
- 22Cypress Ranch HS, Houston RHPNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: Thompson figures to get linked to the Braves as well, but the Rays recently popped prep lefty Matthew Liberatore and could be drawn toward another Matthew’s arsenal in 2019. Thompson has terrific athleticism and body control, and he complements a low-90s fastball with tremendous feel to snap off a late-breaking, low-80s slider with hard, biting action.
- 23West Virginia RHPNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: The Rockies have done a solid job developing starting pitchers in recent years, in spite of Coors Field. After watching righthander Jon Gray and lefthander Kyle Freeland turn into productive major leaguers, the Rockies dipped back into the college pitching pool last year with Mississippi lefthander Ryan Rolison. Manoah brings a bigger frame than all of them at a towering 6-foot-7, 260-pounds. He has a big fastball that has touched 98 mph, a pair of promising secondaries and showed improved strike-throwing ability on the Cape this summer.
- 24Vanderbilt OFNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: Like the D-backs, the Indians also put plenty of emphasis on the hit tool. Bleday is coming off a season in which he hit .368/.494/.511 in the Southeastern Conference, and he has walked more than he’s struck out in both of his seasons at Vanderbilt. On top of that, Bleday showed he could hit with a wood bat this summer in Cape Cod League, where he hit five long balls in 148 at-bats—the highest home run rate of his college career.
- 25Oregon RHPNotes:
Why It Makes Sense: One of many college pitchers looking to prove themselves for the first time in starter’s roles this spring, Nelson has arguably the biggest arm of any pitcher in the country. He’s touched 99 mph as a reliever who split time at shortstop with Oregon last spring, but he will be taking over a larger role as a pitcher in 2019. He could make a big jump up draft boards with an athletic delivery, a 6-foot-4, 182-frame and a hard slider. The analytically inclined Dodgers weren’t afraid to take prep righthander J.T. Ginn last year (who didn’t sign), so the reliever risk Nelson carries might not be prohibitive for the team at No. 25.