Swaggerty, Denaburg, Larnach Helping Themselves
Welcome to the first Draft Tracker of the 2018 season.
Baseball America has done versions of the draft tracker in the past, but we’re bringing the feature back this season on a more regular basis.
The goal of this recurring feature (which will happen on Thursdays every other week, alternating with draft chats) is to keep you aware of some of the major movement of draft prospects over the course of the season. Whether that’s a top player slipping, a pop-up prospect jumping higher onto boards or a player’s stock falling because of injuries, the goal of the draft tracker is to give regular information on the extremely fluid nature of the draft as we progress towards the BA 500.
One thing to point out is that it is still extremely early in the season. While pointing out trends is helpful to get an understanding of the draft picture, all of the players listed have plenty of time to make adjustments and change directions as the season progresses.
Let’s jump in.
Travis Swaggerty | OF | South Alabama
Over and over again, we hear that college bats will inevitably rise up draft boards as the spring season begins. Once again, that’s the case and perhaps the highest profile player to start trending upward is South Alabama outfielder Travis Swaggerty.
After going undrafted out of Denham Springs (La.) High in 2015, Swaggerty has performed at a high level each year with the Jaguars in the Sun Belt Conference, hitting .331/.459/.493 over his first two seasons and also impressing with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team last summer with a .328/.449/.406 line with a wood bat.
Through nine games this season Swaggerty is off to a torrid pace, hitting .367/.587/.767 with three home runs and three doubles in nine games. Prior to this spring, power was perhaps the only area of Swaggerty’s game that could be reasonably criticized. While it’s still early, if the increased power is as real as it appears to be, Swaggerty will more than likely go at the top of the first round rather than in the back half.
“He showed some of the best hands that I’ve seen in this year’s college crop,” said one scout who’s seen Swaggerty this season. “Athleticism to stick in center field. It’s top half of the first round talent, perhaps better.”
Mason Denaburg | RHP | Merritt Island (Fla.) High
Denaburg’s performance in front of a large group of scouting directors during his first outing of the season pushes him near the top of a deep high school pitching class. His second outing of the season wasn’t as sharp as his first, but he can get his fastball up to 97 mph and has shown tremendous improvement with breaking ball that was plus during his first start of the year.
Denaburg offers significant upside and room for improvement as well, as a former two-way player who is only now starting to focus exclusively on pitching. As one of the more athletic arms in the class, he should have the ability to continue making adjustments and refining his game as progresses and logs more innings.
Carter Stewart | RHP | Eau Gallie High, Melbourne, Fla.
Stewart was largely in Denaburg’s shadow at the PBR event that the two righthanders both threw at two weeks ago, as his breaking ball wasn’t as consistent as it’s been previously. Still, evaluators see the pitch as a plus-plus pitch down the line (if it isn’t there already) and his velocity has taken a massive jump since the 88-92 mph range that he found himself sitting in most of the summer.
Scouts say that Stewart has touched as high as 98 mph recently, which completely changes the grades penciled into his scouting reports. While last summer Stewart had one of the best breaking balls in the class with a below-average fastball that could project as average or better down the line thanks to his frame and athleticism, it sounds like he now has two future 70-grade offerings.
That sort of stuff combined with his advanced ability to throw strikes—evidenced by his ability to manipulate and spot a breaking ball that most prep pitchers would struggle to control—and the projection he still has in a 6-foot-6 frame that can add more weight has him shooting up draft boards.
Trevor Larnach | OF | Oregon State
Larnach’s current production (.556/.667/.1.111, 4 HR, 3 2B) is unsustainable throughout a full season, but he’s taken an obvious step forward with his game and has surpassed his previous college home run total (three homers over 88 games in two seasons) in just six games during his junior year. It’s not all that unusual for hitters to improve their power during their junior season, but Larnach is exceeding all expectations.
While Larnach should come back down to Earth—or even within the stratosphere—at some point in the near future, he’ll get seen as often as any player in the country playing alongside Cadyn Grenier and (in a few less games now) Nick Madrigal, with a chance to move well within the top two rounds thanks in part to a down year for the college bats.
Nander De Sedas | SS | Montverde (Fla.) Academy
The toolsy Florida shortstop entered the spring as a member of the first team on BA’s preseason high school All-America team, but one who still had questions about the polish of his bat. While Montverde has played just a handful of games to this point, some evaluators with multiple looks at De Sedas this spring have left with more questions than they came with.
He’s facing less than elite high school pitching and hasn’t barreled those arms at the level you’d expect of a top-of-the-first-round talent. Additionally, evaluators have been less than impressed with his defensive play at shortstop whereas last summer and fall, he showed all the tools to signify he could stick at the position. Those impressions, combined with some concerns about him outgrowing the middle infield in the future have caused his stock to dip a bit.
The raw talent and ability is still there, and it’s early, but De Sedas will need to start showing it more this spring to re-establish himself with the elite players of this class. He’ll have a chance to do so against talented arms in the next few weeks.
Jeremy Eierman | SS | Missouri State
Eierman’s draw is as a potential middle of the order bat with a chance to stick at shortstop. So far this season, Eierman hasn’t hit much yet, let alone for power. In six games vs. Texas Southern, Lamar and Central Arkansas, Eierman has hit .130/.259/.217 with no home runs, eight strikeouts and two walks.
Decision makers are likely not overreacting too much at this point, and many have yet to see him play, but he’ll get a decent crowd of scouts during weekend No. 3 as Missouri State heads to Greenville, N.C. to play St. Joseph’s, East Carolina and Pepperdine. A good showing there would help him ease a slight fall that’s coming on the heels of a poor showing with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team (.125/.182/.225, 10 K, 2 BB) last summer.
Cincinnati Reds 2018 MLB Draft Grades
Jonathan India comes with a polished skillset, Bren Spillane has serious power and other Reds superlatives.
On the Mend
Nick Madrigal | 2B | Oregon State
The top college hitter in the class will be out of Oregon State’s lineup for a significant period of time after reportedly breaking his wrist last weekend on a slide into home plate. While unfortunate, this news shouldn’t change Madrigal’s draft stock much at all, as a player who has developed an extremely impressive track record of hitting at a high level. He was off to another strong start this season, while also showing some power out of the gate.
Ethan Hankins | RHP | Forsyth Central High, Cumming, Ga.
Hankins left one of his first starts this spring with shoulder tightness and got the injury checked out to find no tears in the shoulder. He’ll go through some physical therapy and the hope is that he could return in the next few weeks.
This injury is a bit more concerning than Madrigal’s, but for now it shouldn’t drop the electric righthander much. If he goes through his PT and comes back as the same caliber pitcher he was for the entirety of last summer he’ll right back in the conversation as one of the first players off the board, with the talent to potentially become the first high school righthander taken 1-1.
Slade Cecconi | RHP | Trinity Prep High, Winter Park, Fla.
Cecconi hasn’t thrown yet this season and is dealing with an undisclosed injury according to multiple sources, though it doesn’t sound like a major setback and he could be on the mound again in the next couple of weeks.
Teams looked forward to getting to know Cecconi better this offseason, but have faced obstacles in doing that to this point. Cecconi has the talent to match up with the best arms in the high school class with a fastball that’s been up to 96 and a plus slider, but has pitched less frequently than most of them as well. His first outing could end up being at the highly-scouted National High School Invitational event in Cary at the end of this month.