2017 MLB Draft Grades: Toronto Blue Jays
Best Pure Hitter: SS Logan Warmoth (1) has present strength, repeats his fairly simple swing and has a knack for finding the barrel. His pitch recognition and track record augur well for continued improvement, as he keeps improving his power numbers.
Best Power Hitter: OF/1B Ryan Noda (15) struggled in the spring with Cincinnati but feasted on younger competition with Rookie-level Pulaski, showing strength and leverage in his swing. His power-over-hit profile will be tested at higher levels.
Fastest Runner: OF D.J. Neal (26) has size and speed, with 6.45-second times over 60 yards in workouts, translating to 70 grades. Canadian OF Tanner Kirwer (20) is a plus runner and accomplished basestealer (66-for-77 in three seasons at Niagara).
Best Defensive Player: SS Kevin Smith (4) was expected to be the first college shortstop drafted entering the season due to his glove and power. The glove held up in the spring at Maryland and in pro ball, as he showed body control, good footwork, above-average hands and arm strength. Warmoth has the tools for shortstop as well but could be a plus defender if he moves to second.
Best Athlete: At 6-foot-3, 201 points, Neal looks and runs like a wide receiver, which he was for one season at South Carolina. Still just 20, his season at USC Sumter JC helped him catch up with much-needed at-bats, and he hit .297/.341/.426 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in his debut.
Best Fastball: RHP Nate Pearson (1) flashed 97-98 mph heat in the fall and during the spring, and by the time of an early June workout before the draft in Lakeland, Fla., he was hitting 102 mph with big-time life. It’s a swing-and-miss fastball both at the bottom of the zone, with heavy life, and at the top.
Best Secondary Pitch: Pearson’s slider and curve have flashed plus, as has his changeup, albeit less frequently. He’s comfortable with the change and has power on his breaking balls, if not consistency, but it’s an exciting four-pitch mix.
Best Pro Debut: Including the short-season Northwest League playoffs, Pearson posted a 0.96 ERA and 40 strikeouts with 11 walks in 28 innings. Noda was MVP of the Appalachian League after hitting .364/.507/.575 with 59 walks and 60 strikeouts in 214 at-bats.
Most Intriguing Background: Neal’s football background is rare, but so is being the son of former Blue Jay and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, like 1B Kacy Clemens (8).
Number Of Minor League Pitchers Throwing 100 MPH Decreases In 2018
In conversations with scouts and front office officials during the season many of them mentioned seeing less pitchers with top-of-the-scale fastballs than they had seen in other recent seasons.
Closest To The Majors: Warmoth has few holes in his game. Pearson would surpass him if he were to be moved to the bullpen.
Best Late-Round Pick: Neal and Noda will both be watched, with Neal’s athleticism giving him an edge.