Top 50 Draft Prospects Of The BA Era
To celebrate what is the 55th anniversary of the first draft in 1965 and what is the 40th draft class covered by Baseball America, we present the top 50 draft prospects in our time on the beat.
Led by founding editor Allan Simpson, Baseball America covered its first draft class in its inaugural year of 1981, which turned out to be a watershed year for college baseball. Major league teams began to value the certainty and proximity of college talent and for the first time selected more collegians than high school players in the first round. It didn’t hurt that the 1981 draft class was headed by collegians Kevin McReynolds, Joe Carter, Ron Darling and No. 1 overall pick Mike Moore.
Forty draft classes later, baseball again has a year dominated by college talent, including presumptive No. 1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson and standouts Austin Martin, Asa Lacy, Nick Gonzales and Emerson Hancock.
Simpson is the foremost expert on draft history, and he has been intimately involved with every draft class since 1981, so we asked him to compile his personal ranking of the top draft prospects in that time. He obliged.
What you will find here is Simpson’s personal ranking of the top 50 draft prospects since 1981—based on their potential at the time they were drafted. The Analysis section includes blurbs that were first published in Simpson’s indispensable “Ultimate Draft Book.”
For those interested in purchasing a copy of the “Ultimate Draft Book,” email me your request to email@example.com
Alex RodriguezWestminster Christian HS, Miami SSNotes:
Source: HS | Draft Year: 1993
Analysis: Considered the most complete prep position player ever drafted, A-Rod reached the major leagues at 18. He looked like an all-time great as a power-hitting shortstop (696 homers ranks fourth all time), but his career was clouded by PED issues.
Draft Report: No one has been hyped more than Rodriguez, whom many veteran talent sleuths are calling the best high school position player they ever have scouted. Rodriguez has no weaknesses. He has power, excellent shortstop actions and is poised beyond his 17 years. He's this draft's potential franchise talent.More Less
Bryce HarperJC of Southern Nevada CNotes:
Source: JC | Draft Year: 2010
Analysis: Harper was the most celebrated teenage prospect of the draft era. He left high school after his sophomore year, enrolled in junior college and hit .443-31-98. He became draft-eligible at 17 and signed a five-year, $9.9 million major league deal as the No. 1 overall pick. He won the 2015 National League MVP and later signed with the Phillies for $330 million.
Draft Report: After Harper skipped out on his final two years of high school to enroll in a wood-bat junior college league, even his biggest supporters probably would have underestimated how he would perform this season. Over his 180 regular-season at-bats, the 17-year-old hit .417/.509/.917. The school record for home runs was 12, set when the school still used aluminum bats. Harper finished with 23. He has top-of-the-scale power, but scouts have differing opinions about what kind of hitter he'll be. Some believe his exaggerated load and ferocious swings will cause him to strike out 125-140 times a season and keep his average around .250. Others believe in his exceptional hand-eye coordination and expect him to calm down his swing in pro ball, figuring .280-.300 isn't out of the question. Harper also has 80 raw arm strength on the 20-80 scouting scale, but he needs to shorten up his arm action for it to play better behind the plate. Scouts are also split on where he'll end up defensively. Some believe he'll be fine at catcher. Others think he will either outgrow the position or that his bat will be too good to hold back, so a team will want to move him to the position that gets him to the big leagues the fastest--either third base or right field. Harper has done some incredible things on a baseball field, like hitting 500-foot home runs, throwing runners out at first from the outfield, and scoring from second base on a passed ball. He's received more attention and unfounded criticism than any amateur player in years. Perhaps the biggest question now is: Is it possible for him to live up to the hype? He's seeking to break Stephen Strasburg's record bonus, and that certainly won't reduce the hype or the pressure.More Less
Stephen StrasburgSan Diego State RHPNotes:
Source: 4YR | Draft Year: 2009
Analysis: Not drafted out of high school, Strasburg became one of the most hyped pitchers ever three years later. He went 13-1, 1.32 with 195 strikeouts in 109 innings as a junior, then signed a record-shattering $15.1 million contract. He peaked in 2019 with a career season that included World Series MVP honors for Nationals.
Draft Report: In the history of the draft, no prospect has received as much predraft hype and publicity as Strasburg--and the attention is warranted. His combination of stuff, pitching savvy and command make him a once-in-a-generation phenomenon. Between spreads in national magazines, television features and glowing articles in major newspapers, Strasburg has had a stunning junior season for the Aztecs. A relatively low-profile recruit, he has improved by leaps and bounds both physically and mentally as a college player. He closed as a freshman and BA ranked him as the New England Collegiate League's No. 1 prospect in 2007, and he emerged as a dominant starter in 2008, highlighted by a 23-strikeout effort against Utah. He pitched both for USA Baseball's college national team and then on the Olympic team last summer, the lone amateur ever to win a spot on a pro Team USA roster. He lost to Cuba in the Olympic semifinal, and that's the last time he has lost a game. His 2009 statistics defy belief for a player competing at the major college level. After a no-hitter against Air Force, he was 11-0, 1.24, with 164 strikeouts against 17 walks in 87 innings. He had allowed just 48 hits this season, for a .161 opponent average. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Strasburg grabs your attention first with his sensational raw velocity. In his first start of the season, his first six pitches registered 98-99 mph, and he touched 100 and 101 later in the season. Of course, raw velocity is no guarantee of major league success, but Strasburg has much more than that. His hard, slurvy curveball is an 81-82 mph hitter's nightmare. Not since Tim Lincecum has one hurler had both the best fastball and the best curve in the same draft. Represented by Scott Boras Corp., Strasburg will no doubt engage in protracted negotiations, and predraft rumors indicated his demands could go as high as $50 million or that he could try a side trip to Japan to make himself a free agent. Barring something unforeseen, though, he will likely sign right at the Aug. 15 deadline and should command a guarantee in the $12 million-$15 million range. There's no doubt that Strasburg is the best college pitching prospect since Mark Prior came out of Southern California in 2001. Prior's career illustrates that no amateur pitcher is guaranteed long-term professional success, but Strasburg is the closest to a sure thing that scouts have ever seen. Major league organizations may not see a prospect like Strasburg for another 20 or 30 years, so the Nationals will not let him pass with the No. 1 pick.More Less
Ken Griffey Jr.Archbishop Moeller HS, Cincinnati OFNotes:
Source: HS | Draft Year: 1987
Analysis: Griffey made draft history as the son of Big Red Machine star Ken Griffey and later played alongside his father in Seattle's outfield. Junior hit 630 homers in 22-year career to become the first No. 1 overall pick to reach the Hall of Fame.
Draft Report: Griffey obviously has good blood lines, but he has the potential to be even a better player than his father, scouts say. He has above average power, speed and throwing arm.More Less
Mark PriorSouthern California RHPNotes:
Source: 4YR | Draft Year: 2001
Analysis: The “best college pitcher ever,” Prior was subject of massive hype and seemed destined for greatness with an easy delivery and a devastating arsenal. His career was doomed by shoulder issues, but not before he led the 2003 Cubs to the precipice of the World Series.
Draft Report: All the superlatives come out when Prior's name is mentioned in coaching and scouting circles, including "best college pitcher ever," and "could be a No. 3 starter on a lot of big league clubs right now." The 6-foot-5, 220-pound righthander has been dominant from his first pitch and led the Pacific-10 Conference in wins, ERA and strikeouts entering regional play. That he could reach 200 strikeouts before walking 20 batters says it all about his stuff and command. He dominated hitters with a 94-97 mph fastball with exquisite location on both sides of the plate, and outstanding command of his quality breaking ball. And it all happens with a free, easy, effortless delivery. His success this season is a culmination of hard work, maturity and experience. Prior, a supplemental first-round draft pick of the Yankees in 1998, struggled with command in his first two years in college. He put it all together last summer with Team USA. He has significantly improved his control and his breaking pitch. He also has a solid changeup, but rarely threw it this year. For all his physical attributes, Prior's makeup is one of his greatest strengths. Those who know him say he wouldn't be intimidated by going directly to the big leagues--a feat that has happened only 18 times in draft history.More Less
Brien TaylorEast Cateret HS, Beaufort, N.C. LHPNotes:
Source: HS | Draft Year: 1991
Analysis: Taylor's stunning $1.55 million bonus from the Yankees seemed like a sound investment. He dominated with a lively arm and upper-90s fastball but hurt his shoulder in an offseason fight while still a prospect and never recovered, failing to reach the major leagues.
Draft Report: Taylor has overwhelming support as the top pick in the draft. He's big, athletic and throws close to 95 mph with an effortless motion. Scouts say his curveball needs a little work, but otherwise he has no flaws.More Less
Bo JacksonAuburn OFNotes:
Source: 4YR | Draft Year: 1986
Analysis: Jackson showed 80 power, 80 speed and 70 arm strength at Auburn—but he was even better at football, scaring away most MLB teams. The Royals gambled in the fourth round, confident in the relationship built by area scout Kenny Gonzales, and signed Jackson to a three-year, $1 million major league deal.
Draft Report: Most of the focus was taken out of the south when Auburn's Jackson became ineligible this spring; still, he could be a factor if he indicates he's serious about playing baseball.More Less
Byron BuxtonAppling County HS, Baxley, Ga. OFNotes:
Source: HS | Draft Year: 2012
Analysis: An all-around talent who elicited historical superlatives from scouts, Buxton earned perfect 80 grades for speed and arm strength. A series of injuries in the minors stalled his rise to majors, where he has showcased his all-world defensive ability and speed while flashing offensive upside.
Draft Report: Buxton emerged last summer and fall as the top position player in the 2012 draft class, first with his premium, athletic body and blazing speed, then with his emerging power potential and intriguing bat. Buxton has a chance to be a true five-tool player if his bat develops as hoped. The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder has a high-waisted frame that oozes projection. He hasn't hit for big power this spring, with just two home runs, though he flashes plus raw power in batting practice and was runner-up (to Lewis Brinson) in last year's home run derby prior to the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field. Buxton's speed plays more presently, as he steals bases easily and covers acres of ground in center field. Some scouts have given him top-of-the-scale grades for both his speed (others call it well above-average) and at times for his throwing arm. He's shown a low-maintenance swing with a good path and premium bat speed that should allow him to hit for both average and power. Buxton will have to adjust to quality pitching, especially breaking balls. But as an amateur, he's shown the ability to sit back on offspeed pitches and hit them with authority the other way. Comparisons for Buxton range from Matt Kemp to a hybrid of brothers B.J. and Justin. Like Justin Upton, and he ranks as the top talent in his draft class.More Less
Ben McDonaldLouisiana State RHPNotes:
Source: 4YR | Draft Year: 1989
Analysis: The acclaimed pitcher had it all—size, stuff, control, poise, amateur résumé—but his college workload played a role in his early elbow problems and unfulfilled expectations. Drafted No. 1 overall by the Orioles, McDonald reached the majors quickly and spent nine seasons there.
Draft Report: Say no more. McDonald, the big righthander from Louisiana State was projected as the top pick in the draft more than a year ago, and he's solidified his status this spring. Size, poise, big-time fastball, control --he's got it all.More Less
David PriceVanderbilt LHPNotes:
Source: 4YR | Draft Year: 2007
Analysis: The Golden Spikes winner went 11-1, 2.63 with national-best 194 strikeouts on the strength of his deft four-pitch mix. He was a lock to be the Rays' choice with the first overall pick, with predictable major league success, including the 2012 American League Cy Young Award.
Draft Report: Price entered his junior season as the best amateur player in the country and reinforced his reputation with a third dominant season. He has the complete portfolio of athleticism, stuff, makeup and a proven track record. He posted a 0.43 ERA with 151 strikeouts in 65 innings as a high school senior and would have been a high-round pick if it hadn't for signability questions. The Dodgers made a run at signing him after drafting him in the 19th round in 2004, but Price stuck to his Vanderbilt commitment and stepped into the rotation right away, earning Freshman All-America honors. Price attends Vanderbilt on a financial scholarship, rather than a baseball ride, and he is lauded for his positive, team-first attitude. He took two tours with USA Baseball's college national team, including a 5-1, 0.20 stint in 2006 when he led Team USA to a gold medal in the World University Games in Cuba and was named Summer Player of the Year. His fastball/slider/changeup repertoire is unmatched among amateurs. He pitches at 90-91 mph, but the late life, arm-side run and finish of his fastball make it a weapon. He can dial it up to 95, seemingly whenever he needs to. His slider touches 87 with hard, late, sharp bite, grading as a 70 pitch on the 20-80 scale. His changeup is deceptive, and a third plus pitch. He spots all three of his pitches to all four quadrants of the strike zone, adds and subtracts and carves up hitters with efficiency and ease. His arm action and delivery are excellent. Price was an honorable mention all-Tennessee selection in basketball in high school, an indication of his athletic ability, which helps him field his position well and repeat his delivery. He profiles, conservatively, as a No. 2 starter, while some scouts see him as a true No. 1. The Devil Rays are expected to make him the top pick.More Less
Joe MauerCretin-Derharn Hall HS, St. Paul, Minn. CNotes:
Source: HS | Draft Year: 2001
Analysis: Mauer was seen as compromise choice, but history has justified the Twins’ selection of hometown product and two-sport star. He won three American League batting titles, the 2009 AL MVP and three Gold Gloves.
Draft Report: Like reigning Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke before him, Mauer is a Cretin-Derham Hall star with a scholarship to play quarterback for Florida State. Some recruiting sources rank Mauer as the top passer in the nation, and he won three national player-of-the-year awards after tying a state record with 41 touchdown throws last fall. He has MLB and NFL potential, and he also averaged nearly 20 points a game for a basketball team that finished third in the state. He could be costly to sign, albeit a cheaper option than Southern California righthander Mark Prior for the hometown Twins with the first pick. Scouts are sold on Mauer's desire to play baseball and don't believe football will stand in his way. His best tool is his bat, and he led all players at the 2000 World Junior Championship with a .559 average and 15 RBIs in eight games. He has exceptional bat speed and drives the ball to all fields. He's athletic for a catcher, and his 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame reminds scouts of the Padres' Ben Davis. Mauer, as would be expected, has a strong arm and natural leadership skills. The scrutiny that comes with being the possible No. 1 choice hasn't bothered him in the least. He hit .553 with nine homers in his first 47 at-bats this spring, and didn't strike out.More Less
Justin UptonGreat Bridge HS, Chesapeake, Va. SSNotes:
Source: HS | Draft Year: 2005
Analysis: One of most acclaimed athletes of the draft era, Upton showcased superior bat, speed and arm. His $6.1 million bonus dwarfed other picks, and he reached the major leagues at age 19. He made four all-star appearances before turning 30.
Draft Report: Upton stands as the favorite to become the draft's first overall pick, which would trump his brother B.J., whom the Devil Rays selected second in 2002. The sibling rivalry doesn't stop there. Justin has proven equally athletic and more advanced offensively than B.J. at the same age, demonstrating excellent patience at the plate and a quick stroke. Upton's well-defined and muscular upper body give a hint to his plus power potential, which he accompanies with equal amounts of speed. His 6.23-second time in the 60-yard dash at a Perfect Game showcase last year rates as the quickest in the scouting service's history. Upton moves well defensively and shows clean actions at shortstop, but again follows in his brother's footsteps because he has trouble harnessing the plus arm strength that has allowed him to hit 94 mph off the mound. The throwing errors come from not maintaining consistent mechanics, a problem that fades when Upton long tosses or makes throws from the outfield. This has led some scouts to profile him as a center fielder, though Upton would prefer to remain at shortstop. He actually played third base late in his senior season, making all the plays there after switching positions with a teammate who struggled to make the long throws from the hot corner. Wherever Upton lands defensively, teams will buy the bat. His character and work ethic often go under-reported, as people tend to focus on the five-tool skills. He's handled the expectations of being tagged 2005's top prospect since his freshman year of high school with aplomb, routinely playing in front of scores of scouts and answering countless questions from scouts and media alike. He continues to back up the hype, with his performance at the World Junior Championship in September as a prime example. He led Team USA in runs (eight), hits (10), triples (four), total bases (21) and slugging (.875).More Less
Adley RutschmanOregon State CNotes:
Source: 4YR | Draft Year: 2019
Analysis: The 2018 College World Series champion and 2019 College Player of the Year was drafted No. 1 overall by the Orioles and awarded a record $8.1 million bonus.
Draft Report: After leading Oregon State to a College World Series title as a sophomore, Rutschman entered the 2019 draft season as the consensus top player, and the Beavers' backstop has done nothing but cement himself in that spot over the past year. Oregon State’s leading hitter during the 2018 College World Series, Rutschman then joined USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team in the summer, when he led all hitters in each triple slash category, hitting .355/.432/.516. This spring, Rutschman has taken another step forward offensively, doubly impressive when you consider he hit .408/.505/.628 with nine home runs as a sophomore in 2018. This season, he’s tapped into more of his plus raw power while also significantly boosting his walk rate. Opposing pitchers have often pitched around Rutschman this season, although the 6-foot-2, 216-pound backstop rarely expands the zone and has consistently kept his strikeout rate near 14 percent over his three seasons in the Pac-12. Rutschman has plus power from both sides of the plate, with his righthanded stroke just a bit shorter than his swing from the left side. He makes adjustments well at the plate, and while his 2017 summer in the Cape Cod League wasn’t ideal (.164/.282/.179 in 20 games), scouts have seen him do enough damage with Team USA to remain more than confident in his ability with a wood bat. Overall, Rutschman projects as a future .300 hitter. Defensively, Rutschman has all the tools to be a plus defender at the position. He has a strong arm, impressive receiving and blocking ability and excellent footwork on throws to second base, with a quick exchange from his glove to his release. Some scouts would like to have seen Rutschman throw more frequently this spring, but teams have run against him infrequently—and for good reason. Like most catchers, speed is Rutschman’s weakest tool and the only tool that doesn’t project as plus, but that’s hardly a concern moving forward. Most scouts believe Rutschman has a chance to be an All-Star-level player in the majors as an impact bat in the middle of the order while also bringing plenty of defensive value. With excellent makeup and plenty of natural leadership traits, Rutschman has all the intangibles teams like to see from their backstops. He is the best catching prospect since Buster Posey in 2008 and Matt Wieters in 2007.More Less
Bobby WittOklahoma RHPNotes:
Source: 4YR | Draft Year: 1985
Analysis: Witt had explosive stuff that was regarded as in the same league as Nolan Ryan’s, but he never quite learned to throw strikes consistently or harness his ability. He went just 142-157, 4.83 in a 16-year big league career.
Draft Report: Witt is the consensus of major league scouting directors to go No. 1 in the June draft. One scout for the Major League Scouting Bureau reportedly gave him an 80 on the 20-80 scale. "In terms of pure arm, he's got the best in the country," one scouting director said. "He's got a real arsenal of pitches. It's just a matter of him harnessing his control and his performance equalling his potential." Added another, "He's go the type of arm that he could lead the major leauges in strikeouts some day." Witt has a Nolan Ryan-type arm. His fastball is consistently clocked at 96 mph, and not just in the first or second inning. In the fifth, sixth and seventh, Witt is still bringing it. But his fastball may not even be his best pitch. Witt's fastball gets the publicity, but his slider gets the outs. He has ideal size at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds.More Less
Josh HamiltonAthens Drive HS, Raleigh, N.C. OFNotes:
Source: HS | Draft Year: 1999
Analysis: A freakish athlete with power, speed, mid-90s fastball, Hamilton's addiction issues continually affected career and kept him out of majors until 2007. He redeemed himself with the Rangers, winning the 2010 American League MVP and leading Texas to back-to-back AL pennants.
Draft Report: Scouts have flocked to North Carolina's Triangle (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill) this spring, most notably a large delegation from the Devil Rays organization to see OF/LHP Josh Hamilton, who emerged in March as the probable No. 1 pick. Hamilton is a legitimate two-way talent who grades out highest as a hitting prospect. He also got a strong look as a pitcher because he was clocked up to 95 mph. Were it not for his prowess as an everyday player, Hamilton would have been looked at seriously as a late first-round pick as a pitcher. He's a five-tool talent who does everything easily, with fluid actions and grace. He has outstanding bat speed and extension on his swing. He projects top-of-the-scale power. His arm strength also is first rate. He does not have the speed for center field and should settle in as a prototype right fielder. Hamilton has made subtle adjustments to his game this spring. He's gotten stronger and understands how to play the game. He's tweaked his swing to eliminate a slight hitch. If anything, he needs to address pulling off pitches with the bat and use his legs more in his swing--all things that are correctable.More Less
John OlerudWashington State 1BNotes:
Source: 4YR | Draft Year: 1989
Team: Blue Jays
Analysis: Following intensive brain surgery, Olerud missed most of his junior year and told teams not to draft him. The Blue Jays gambled in the third round and got creative to get a deal done, signing Olerud to a three-year, $800,000 major leauge deal that guraranteed that he would skip the minor leagues. Olerud won two World Series rings and a batting title in decorated career.
Draft Report: Before an aneurysm in January led to six and a half hours of surgery, Washington State first baseman Olerud was second-ranked among college players to Louisiana State's Ben McDonald. Olerud made a rapid recovery this spring, but hasn't rebounded to his 1988 form (.464-23-82; 15-0 as a pitcher). And there's concern that Olerud has taken himself out of the draft and will return to WSU for his senior year—in part out of loyalty to longtime WSU coach Chuck Brayton, who also coached Olerud's father. Brayton will retire after winning his 1,000th game next year. Scouts say that if someone is willing to gamble on Olerud, he could be among the first two or three players drafted, particularly if the Mariners take a stab at a hometown boy with the No. 3 pick.More Less
Josh BeckettSpring (Texas) HS RHPNotes:
Source: HS | Draft Year: 1999
Analysis: Beckett was arguably the top prep righthander of the draft era with his 97-99 mph fastball and knee-buckling curveball. He signed a $7 million major league contract and logged 138 career wins. Beckett's career was defined by brilliance in the 2003 and 2007 postseasons for the Marlins and Red Sox.
Draft Report: RHP Josh Beckett has taken on legend status in his home state, right alongside famed Texas schoolboy pitchers of years past--Nolan Ryan, David Clyde, Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood. He has had a national following since last year, when there was talk he would have been the first pick in the draft had he been eligible. He pitched lights out again this spring, compiling a 13-2, 0.39 record with 178 strikeouts in 89 innings. His fastball was clocked routinely from 93-96 mph and occasionally reached 97-98. His breaking pitch was its equal. Scouts marvel at how easy Beckett's arm works, and yet the ball explodes out of his hand. He competes hard and has developed an arrogance that does not always endear him to people. "He knows he's good; he's been told it for three years," one scout said. For all the hype, Beckett still isn't likely to become the first high school righthander ever drafted No. 1 overall. He should be the second pick.More Less
J.D. DrewFlorida State OFNotes:
Source: 4YR | Draft Year: 1997
Analysis: A controversial 1997 holdout when drafted second overall by the Phillies, Drew went fifth overall to the Cardinals in 1998 after unsuccessfully trying to become a free agent. The five-tool talent never quite lived up to his purported 30-30 potential, but he enjoyed a long, productive career.
Draft Report: J.D. Drew was the top-rated college player at the beginning of the season and widened the gap on his competition. He has enjoyed a season for the ages, chasing the Atlantic Coast Conference triple crown and college baseball's first 30-30 year. The ball jumps of his bat, and he has plus power to all fields. He has developed a keener sense for taking what pitchers give him and has put the ball in play better. All his tools are above average except defense, where he faces a possible switch from center field to a corner position. He doesn't get a great jump on balls.More Less
Will ClarkMississippi State 1BNotes:
Source: 4YR | Draft Year: 1985
Analysis: Clark developed his picturesque home run swing in college and won the 1984 Golden Spikes Award. The highly-competitive player hit .300-plus 10 times in the majors and went deep 284 times.
Draft Report: Mississippi State's Clark and Rafael Palmeiro were tabbed as high first-round picks at the start of the year. Clark's held his place, and will be one of the first three players drafted.More Less
Todd Van PoppelMartin HS, Arlington, Texas RHPNotes:
Source: HS | Draft Year: 1990
Analysis: The top talent in the 1990 draft based on his size and velocity, Van Poppel slid to the Athletics at No. 14 because of bonus demands. He signed a record $1.2 million major league deal, but a straight fastball led to a mediocre big league career (40-52, 5.58).
Draft Report: In his first seven outings this season, Van Poppel registered a 6-1, 0.00 record. He lost 1-0 to Richland High on an unearned run, the only run he’d allow all year. Twice he struck out 16 in seven-inning games. Should the Atlanta Braves opt for Van Poppel, he would become only the second high school pitcher selected first overall in the draft’s 26-year history. Another Texan, lefthander David Clyde (1973), remains the only pitcher previously picked No. 1. Scouts say Van Poppel, rated the top high school prospect at the start of the season, is in a class by himself among pitchers. He has been clocked as high as 95 mph this spring, and his curveball and control have shown marked improvement over the last year. Van Poppel leads an unusually talented group of Texas high school pitchers. It is projected that as many as three will go in the first round.More Less
Matt WhiteWaynesboro (Pa.) HS RHPNotes:
Source: HS | Draft Year: 1996
Analysis: The “best high school arm ever,” White had size, poise, delivery and command of three plus pitches. The four-time Top 100 Prospect peaked at No. 4 but hurt his shoulder on the cusp of the big leagues and never reached the majors. One of four "loophole" free agents from the 1996 draft, White didn't sign with the Giants, who drafted him seventh overall, instead inking a $10.2 million deal with the Rays.
Draft Report: Veteran scouts are calling Matt White the best high school pitcher they've ever seen. He's got it all: size, three above-average pitches, poise, intelligence and a f fluid, compact delivery. His fastball is routinely in the 94-96 mph range, and he complements it with an above-average slider and changeup. He has command of all three pitches. If the home-state Pirates could afford him, White might be the first high school righthander ever selected No. 1 overall in the draft's 31-year history.More Less
Matt HarringtonPalmdale (Calif.) HS RHPNotes:
Source: HS | Draft Year: 2000
Analysis: Harrington had the best raw arm in the 2000 draft with a 95-98 mph fastball, but after the Rockies took him seventh overall he was the victim of the most acrimonious negotiation ever. He failed to sign and was drafted four more times, never coming to terms. Harrington spent his entire career in independent leagues.
Draft Report: On raw talent, Harrington is the top player in the country. He has an explosive fastball that he brought to the park every outing this spring. He routinely threw the at 94-95 mph and frequently had his best velocity in the sixth and seventh innings, when he topped out at 98. He also showed excellent command, resulting in a 10-0, 0.59 record with 113 strikeouts and 20 walks in 59 innings. His breaking ball is erratic, but everything else scouts look for in a pitcher is there: outstanding body (6-foot-3, 180), outstanding arm action and excellent projection. Arizona State has long since abandoned hope that Harrington is keeping college as an option.More Less
Gerrit ColeUCLA RHPNotes:
Source: 4YR | Draft Year: 2011
Analysis: The Pirates locked in on the unsigned 2008 first-rounder, even as he went 6-8, 3.31 as a junior for the Bruins in 2011. Cole's legit power arm with high-90s velocity justified his selection at No. 1 overall. He pitched well for Pittsburgh but truly began to dominate after joining the Astros in 2018.
Draft Report: Cole had one of the best arms in the 2008 draft, when the Yankees drafted him in the first round, but he opted to attend UCLA. In three years with the Bruins, he has matured on and off the field, becoming a clubhouse leader as well as an ace for UCLA's national runner-up team as a sophomore. This spring, he has consistently shown the best pure stuff of any pitcher in this draft, and he has pounded the strike zone, though he struggled to command the inner half during a rough three-outing stretch in April, leading to a fairly pedestrian 5-7, 3.27 mark for the season. At his best, Cole throws three pitches that rate 70 or better on the 20-80 scouting scale. His four-seam fastball sits in the 94-97 range and tops out at 99, and he shows a 92-93 two-seamer that scouts would like to see him use more. His power slider ranges from 86-90 mph with good depth, and he has developed his 85-87 changeup into a third plus to plus-plus pitch this year, though it had more tumbling action earlier than the year than it did down the stretch. In high school, some scouts were concerned about the effort in Cole's delivery, but he has smoothed it out; most scouts generally regard it as clean, repeatable and simple now. He has a physical, durable frame and a competitive but composed mound demeanor--another change from his prep days. Scouts think Cole could rocket to the majors as a closer throwing 98-100 mph, but the consensus is that he has all the makings of a frontline starter.More Less
MacKenzie GoreWhiteville (N.C.) HS LHPNotes:
Source: HS | Draft Year: 2017
Analysis: The 2017 High School Player of the Year went third overall to the Padres and immediately began dismantling minor league competition, reaching Double-A at age 20 and ranking as the game's top pitching prospect heading into 2020.
Draft Report: Strikethrowing lefthanders are a hot commodity, and they're even more valuable when they have velocity and the ability to spin a breaking ball. Gore checks all those boxes and more. He's an elite athlete on the mound, where he employs a very high kick and long stride off the rubber. He gets deep extension over his front side with his torso consistently landing over his front knee. As Gore grew taller and stronger entering the spring of his senior year, his stuff took a jump. He pitches at 89-93 and can hit 95 or 96 mph with his fastball, showing the ability to get sink on the pitch or cut it in toward righthanded batters or run it away from them. He throws two distinct breaking balls. Gore's curveball shows plus potential with tight 1-to-7 snap and mid 70s velocity. His slider is also a weapon with more horizontal tilt and more firm velocity, reaching into the low 80s. He flashes feel for his low 80s changeup, which projects as an above-average to plus offering. Gore repeats his unorthodox mechanics well and shows elite control for a high school pitcher. As he gains strength, Gore will look to add stability to his lower half. His mechanics can sometimes give him difficulty getting on top of his curveball, an issue he'll aim to correct with reps in the low minors. Some evaluators believe Gore is the top high school pitching prospect in the class due to his command of a well-rounded arsenal of pitches.More Less
Casey MizeAuburn RHPNotes:
Source: 4YR | Draft Year: 2018
Analysis: The preseason favorite to be drafted No. 1 overall, Mize lived up to his billing with a healthy, dominant junior year at Auburn. He went 10-6, 3.30 with 156 strikeouts in 115 innings, then made a smooth transition to pro ball. Mize tossed a no-hitter in 2019, his first full season, which he finished at Double-A.
Draft Report: Mize has established himself as the top player in the 2018 draft class thanks to a deep and talented repertoire that is made mostly of 60-grade or better offerings and exceptional control that allowed him to lead all college pitchers with a 12.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio as a sophomore in 2017. Through 10 starts this spring, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound righthander had improved his K/BB to a ridiculous 15.67 mark with a 2.25 ERA in 68 innings. Mize pitches off of a fastball that gets up to 97 mph but sits in the 93-95 range and a 70-grade splitter that's among the best offspeed offerings in the country. Typically a difficult pitch to control, even for professional pitchers, Mize locates the 86-89 mph splitter remarkably well, with powerful downward action. He also has a slider that is in the mid- to upper 80s that he's thrown with a different grip this spring than he had on previous occasions. He has two variations of the slider--one that is more firm and used as an out pitch and another that's softer with more of a curveball shape and used as a get-me-over strike. He has also added a cutter to his repertoire this spring that's in the 88-91 mph range and scouts have already graded it as a plus offering. On top of all of that, Mize also throws a slower changeup from a different grip than his power splitter, which falls in the low 80s with fade and sink. While technically he has a four-pitch mix, the variations to the splitter and slider give him six different offerings to attack hitters, each of which grade out as plus offerings for most scouts, headlined by the plus-plus splitter. The stuff, pitchability and performance give Mize the ceiling of a future ace, with his medical history being the only knock on his resume. Mize was shutdown with forearm issues during the spring and summer of 2017 and has had trouble staying healthy dating back to his time as a high school prospect in Springville, Ala. He's avoided injury issues the spring of his junior year, however, and if he continues to make his starts and nothing crazy shows up in his medical this June, he should be the first player off the board.More Less