10 MLB Draft Sleepers To Know According To Draftpoint Technology
Baseball America has partnered with Pramana to use Draftpoint, a natural language processing program, to compare Baseball America’s 2020 draft reports to the database of previous reports. Draftpoint takes all the written reports Baseball America has filed over the past decade (eventually we’ll expand it back further) and finds the similarities in the language between this year’s draft class and previous draftees.
Draftpoint notes which words have had positive correlations towards pro success and which words have had negative associations with pro success and then builds out comparable lists of previous players that Baseball America had written about in a similar manner.
Draftpoint has done this for all 500 players in this year’s BA 500. To share some of the insights, here is a look at 10 players who Draftpoint found interesting comparables for. Some of the comps are favorable, some are cautionary or negative. But all are useful in painting the full picture of potential outcomes.
Jared Jones, RHP, La Mirada (Calif.) HS
BA Rank: 41
Jones is an extremely athletic pitcher/outfielder with a long track record of success in amateur ball as a fixture on USA Baseball’s national teams. Lorenzen is a bigger (6-foot-3) pitcher than the 6-foot-1 Jones, but like Jones, he was a two-way star who helped Cal State Fullerton both as a rangy center fielder and as a strong-armed reliever. Stewart is a more cautionary tale as an athletic righthander with a big fastball who was just as much of a quarterback prospect as a pitcher.
Nick Yorke, SS, Archbishop Mitty HS, San Jose, Calif.
BA Rank: 96
Yorke is seen as one of the best pure hitters on the West Coast thanks to a well-balanced swing and excellent timing. A high school shortstop, there are concerns whether he can stay there because of his throwing arm (he’s had a sore shoulder in the past). He is compared to other high school shortstops with polished bats, good timing and fringy defense at shortstop. Randolph immediately moved off the position as a pro. Biggio went to Notre Dame but then blossomed and made the majors last year. Hinojosa, like Yorke, was an advanced hitter who battled a shoulder injury in high school. He went to Texas was an 11th-round pick in 2015 and has yet to reach Triple-A in pro ball.
TJ Nichols, RHP, Oakmont HS, Roseville, Calif.
BA Rank: 111
Nichols is an unpolished arm who is relatively new to pitching as a two-way player. Scouts see him developing into a potentially dominant reliever with a high-velocity fastball and an, as yet, inconsistent slider that could develop right along with it. His report reads very similar to Edwin Diaz’s when Diaz ranked 98th on the 2012 BA 500 as a young, skinny and raw arm with a chance for a developing fastball/breaking ball combo.
Luke Little, LHP, San Jacinto (Texas) JC
BA Rank: 121
Little has touched 105 mph in a much-shared video on social media during one of his post-shutdown throwing sessions. Not surprisingly, there are no lefties in the BA draft archives who have a comparable 105 mph fastball. Aroldis Chapman is the only other lefty who has ever done it. But Robinson, a fifth-round pick of the Twins in 2015; Jones, a fifth-round pick of the Cardinals in 2012, and Koch, a fourth-round pick of the Rays in 2015, are cautionary tales of big-armed relievers who couldn’t put it all together in pro ball. Hernandez, a third-round pick of the Angels in 2018, has not had enough time to really show what he can do yet.
Mason Erla, RHP, Michigan State
BA Rank: 170
Erla had a great start to the 2020 season before everything was shutdown. Now teams are having to figure out if his great start is a clear sign of a breakthrough, or was just a fast start before he regressed to closer to his less effective previous work. Sobotka is an interesting comparison, as a similarly sized-Sobotka was a dominant closer at South Carolina-Upstate with some injury issues and a big fastball. Even though Cease was a prep arm and Erla is a redshirt junior coming out of college, both have big arms and faced questions about their breaking balls. Weaver also had some of the same attributes (but a better track record) coming out of Florida State.
Kale Emshoff, C, Arkansas-Little Rock
BA Rank: 174
Draftpoint serves up some encouraging comps for Emshoff thanks to his excellent power potential. But there are some other comps with more cautionary tales. Emshoff’s power surge in 2020 was a massive jump from his previous production, much like Illinois’ Brendan Spillane. And Stephen McGee was another catcher with a solid batting eye and a big step forward as a junior.
Joey Loperfido, INF, Duke
BA Rank: 261
When talking about sleepers, it’s worth calibrating what we’re looking for. Many useful draftees are players who carve out useful roles as backups. Loperfido has been a solid player for Duke who stands out for his versatility and willingness to do whatever’s needed. Loperfido is a better hitter than Valaika was coming out of UCLA, but like Valaika, he projects as a useful utilityman. Katz, a player with a similar track record at Louisiana State, was released after he reached Double-A.
Nick Yorke: Red Sox 2021 Minor League Player Of The Year
The reason the Red Sox valued Yorke so highly in the 2020 draft became apparent in 2021 as he turned in an elite hitting performance.
Noah Bridges, OF, UNC Wilmington
BA Rank: 262
Bridges may not be drafted this year, but the UNC-Wilmington outfielder does a lot of things well as a plus-plus runner who plays a very solid center field and steals bases. Duggar is an interesting comparison, as like Bridges he was an athletic center fielder with speed and defensive chops but concerns about the bat. Duggar never really developed power as a pro, but the things he does well (play defense and get on base) have helped him carve out an MLB role.
Aaron Nixon, SS, McAllen (Texas) HS
BA Rank: 403
The comps may be a little rich for Nixon, but Draftpoint groups Nixon with a lot of toolsy high school two-way stars who (in most cases) ended up as hitters in pro ball: Dodson has hit and pitched in college and as a Rays minor leaguer. If he makes it to Texas as expected, he’s got the talent to hit and pitch.
Eric Orze, RHP, New Orleans
BA Rank: 497
We don’t want to focus entirely on players who are likely to be drafted. In a normal draft, Orze would be an interesting late-round pick as a likely pro reliever with two above-average pitches, a heroic backstory (he’s beaten cancer twice) and a sparkling 17-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 12.2 innings this year. Goody, a sixth-round pick of the Yankees in 2012, is a success story in that vein, as is Altavilla, a fifth-rounder of the Mariners in 2014.