First Round To-Do List
To-Do Lists were written by Carlos Collazo and Teddy Cahill in consultation with scouts and evaluators from major league clubs.
The release of our Top 200 Draft Prospects list is the start of draft season, not the end. Much will change over the next five months before Rob Manfred announces the No. 1 pick. With that in mind, here are "to-do lists" for each of the players currently projected to be picked in the first round. Some players have extremely advanced hit tools and power projection at the next level but have defensive questions. Others are high school pitchers with advanced stuff but perhaps need to make some mechanical tweaks or show more consistency this spring.
We’ll have full scouting reports on all of these players in the annual Baseball America 500 as we get closer to the draft, but for now here is what the top 31 players in the 2018 class need to improve in the next five months to solidify their spot at the top of draft boards or make another jump.
1. Brady Singer, RHP, Florida: Stay consistent For the third straight year, a Florida pitcher enters the year as a favorite to be the first overall pick. Singer will look to succeed where his former teammates A.J. Puk and Alex Faedo stumbled and finish the year atop draft boards. Puk slid in the draft after an inconsistent spring, while Faedo’s fall was precipitated by a slow start to the season. Listed at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, Singer has electric stuff and throws from a tough arm slot. He runs his fastball in the low to mid 90s with plenty of run and sink and he adds in a sharp slider with a developing changeup in reserve. If Singer can avoid those problems and repeat his excellent 2017 season, when he went 9-5, 3.21 with 129 strikeouts in 126 innings and helped the Gators win the national championship, he should finish the season as the top player in the class.
2. Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS, Cumming, Ga.: Improve breaking ball After dominating high school batters both domestically and internationally—he struck out 27 batters and walked just three in 12 innings with Team USA’s 18U gold-medal winning club—last summer, scouts will be out en masse to see the 6-foot-6 righthander at Forsyth Central (Cumming, Ga.) High this spring. There’s not much for Hankins to do other than stay healthy and continue pitching like he did in 2017 to stick here, although continuing to make progress with his breaking ball will factor into whether Hankins becomes the first prep righthander ever drafted at 1-1. With plenty of room to add strength, many evaluators are expecting Hankins to get into the triple digits with his fastball during the season.
3. Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida: Improve command The South Florida southpaw likely has the best pure stuff of any lefthander in the 2018 draft class with at least two plus pitches in his fastball and slider—and potentially a third with a changeup. McClanahan's development has gone in the right direction, physically, since high school. During his 2017 season, McClanahan struck out 104 batters and walked 36 in 76 innings. This spring, scouts will look to see him improve his command within the zone as he’s been scattered there in the past, and also remain balanced and within his delivery. He has excellent arm speed and without any improvement will still be drafted high thanks to being a lefty with huge stuff. He could make a case for the top spot with improved control and more innings under his belt after missing his freshman season thanks to Tommy John surgery.
4. Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn: Stay healthy Mize has some of the best stuff and track record of any player in the 2018 draft class, with a lively fastball that’s comparable to any as well as a slider and changeup that are both potential plus offerings as well. In 2017, Mize posted a 2.04 ERA over 12 starts with Auburn and had the best strikeout-to-walk ratio (12.11) of any Division I pitcher. What comes up before any of that when talking to scouts, though, is health. Mize will need to show that he can pitch through an entire SEC season this spring after shutting things down during the spring and again during the summer of 2017 thanks to issues with his right forearm. If healthy, Mize could pitch his way into the 1-1 spot, but that remains a big if.
5. Brice Turang, SS, Santiago HS, Corona, Calif.: Produce; show the arm The consensus top prospect entering last summer, Turang’s stock has dipped somewhat after a 2017 showcase season that was more solid than world-beating. Thanks to a long track record of high performance against top competition—he was the best player on Team USA’s 18U club in 2016 and was second in hitting for the 2017 team—he shouldn’t fall very far. This spring Turang will need to go out and prove that he’s a shortstop at the next level, as his arm strength has been questioned at times despite being a 70-grade runner with solid glovework. Adding more weight and muscle could help in that area, and allow him to hit for more power, which is Turang’s biggest weakness currently despite having one of the better hit tools of the class. Royce Lewis had some similar questions entering his senior season and was picked over throughout the spring, but was still drafted No. 1 overall. Turang will look to be the next Team USA star to do the same.
6. Nolan Gorman, 3B, Sandra Day O’Connor HS, Phoenix: Show consistent hit tool No player raised his stock more than Gorman over the course of the summer, as the Sandra Day O’Connor High (Phoenix) slugger won multiple home run derbies and showed that his power—potentially the best in the class, high school or college—could play in games against top arms as well. He was the talk of the scouting community after his impressive offensive performance during Team USA’s 18U training games in Minnesota, but struggled during the World Cup with a .222/.344/.333 line over eight games with a team-high 12 strikeouts. Gorman will need to show a more pure feel to hit this spring, although there are questions about how much he’ll be able to prove that against the arms he’ll see in Arizona. Still, showing a fluid swing that’s on time regularly and within the strike zone will help ease any lingering concerns about his hit tool.
7. Nick Madrigal, 2B/SS, Oregon State: Play shortstop; show the arm The 5-foot-7, 160-pound Oregon State infielder will be an enigma for teams all season, as they debate the merits of his hitting ability in the middle of the infield with questions about how his size will limit his impact down the line. Adding to the discussion will be Madrigal’s position. Teams would be much more willing to grab Madrigal early if he proves he’s capable of playing shortstop after losing that job to Cadyn Grenier in 2017 after experiencing some throwing issues. The best thing Madrigal could do for his stock at this point would be to win the shortstop job while continuing to be .330+ hitter, although Grenier is widely regarded as excellent at the position, which makes it unlikely Madrigal will get the opportunity. Either way, eyes will be on Madrigal’s arm as much as his bat this season.
8. Jackson Kowar, RHP, Florida: Continue building track record Kowar will team with Brady Singer to form one of the best 1-2 punches in the country this spring. He had a solid sophomore season, going 12-1, 4.08 with 84 strikeouts in 108 innings. His pure stuff may be even better than Singer’s, as he works with a mid-90s fastball, a sharp slider (he worked on a curve in fall ball that may end up being better than the slider) and a good changeup. He does not match Singer’s track record, however, and will need a solid showing this spring. He is also more slightly built at 6-foot-5, 180 pounds, and will face some questions about his durability, especially after he missed the second half of his freshman season due to a collapsed lung. But if Kowar pitches up to his potential this spring, he and Singer could be the highest drafted roationmates since Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer both went in the top three picks in 2011.
9. Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge HS, Riverdale, Ariz.: Add velocity The top high school lefthander of the class, Liberatore showed a tantalizing mix of pitchability and projectability during the summer, while serving as co-ace of Team USA’s 18U club with Hankins—where he didn’t allow a run over two starts and 12 innings and started the gold medal game. A bump in velocity could shoot Liberatore up into the top five this spring, after sitting in the upper 80s and lower 90s last summer, although he did touch 94 several times. With a 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame and clean delivery, that’s a likely possibility. Add in Liberatore’s terrific makeup and deep understanding of what he’s trying to do on the mound and teams will be hard-pressed to pass him up come June.
10. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha (Wisc.) West HS: Destroy Wisconsin pitching The top outfielder of the class will be hard-pressed to improve his perception this spring given the talent-level of the teams he will face in Wisconsin. Fortunately, he’s seen as one of the best pure hitters of the high school class and has a long track record as a middle-of-the order hitter with Team USA’s 18U club. Kelenic is one of the most intense players in the class, and some evaluators have questions about that makeup and how he’ll handle failure in pro ball. At the same time there are others who know him well and have no qualms at all with his fiery demeanor and instead see his work ethic and energetic playing style as a big positive sign.
11. Ryan Rolison, LHP, Mississippi: Handle a starter’s load A draft-eligible sophomore, Rolison was a part of Mississippi’s top-ranked 2017 recruiting class. He had a solid freshman season and carried that momentum over to the Cape Cod League, where he established himself as the top pitcher in the circuit. He has a solid four-pitch mix and does a good job of filling up the strike zone. He’s going to face more pressure in 2018, as he will open the season in the Rebels’ rotation and will have weightier expectations as a sophomore. How he handles that pressure and a starter’s workload for the full season after throwing just 61.2 innings last spring will be closely watched as he tries to become Ole Miss’ first first round pick since Drew Pomeranz went fifth overall in 2010.
12. Nander De Sedas, SS, Montverde (Fla.) Academy: Show a hit tool from both sides De Sedas might be the toolsiest shortstop of the 2018 class with a strong arm, excellent defensive actions with quick hands and footwork, and lightning in the bat from either side of the plate. This spring De Sedas will have the chance to show his hit tool against quality pitching in Florida, which could help his stock after a fall that exposed some holes in his swing—from the left side in particular. A natural righthanded hitter, De Sedas has impressive bat speed and power from either side, but with just two years of experience in the lefthanded batter’s box he tends to get long and under the ball from that side while his righthanded swing is more balanced and under control. De Sedas is committed to being a switch-hitting shortstop, and he has the natural talent to do so, but some scouts wonder if he would be better off sticking to the righthanded side.
13. Kumar Rocker, RHP, North Oconee HS, Bogart, Ga.: Improve fastball command Rocker is one of the most famous high school players in the 2018 draft, and with that has come more nitpicking than most 18-year-olds throwing 97-98 mph would normally see. Part of that is because he was hit around more frequently than one would expect given his stuff—which, in a vacuum, is the best repertoire of the class with a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s, sharp, late-biting slider and a potential plus changeup as well. Evaluators will be looking for Rocker to improve his command this spring. He left his fastball over the heart of the plate during the summer and while the velocity is some of the best in the class, good hitters could handle it easily when it was elevated and flat, with little deception out of his hand. The most physically imposing pitcher of the high school class at 6-foot-4, 240, Rocker has some starter/reliever questions at the moment, but it’s hard to see him dropping too far thanks to his obvious raw talent.
14. Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson: Dominate Atlantic Sun hitters Gilbert’s breakout 2017 put him on track to become the next high-end pitching prospect to come from Stetson, joining the likes of Corey Kluber and Jacob deGrom. Gilbert won Atlantic Sun Conference pitcher of the year honors after going 10-0, 2.02 with 107 strikeouts in 89 innings. He was electric on the Cape, posting a 31-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 1.72 ERA in 31.1 innings. He is still relatively new to pitching after playing mostly third base in high school, and he still has some areas of his game to fine tune. Stetson doesn’t face elite competition in the A-Sun, so scouts will be looking for Gilbert to dominate again in 2018.
15. Travis Swaggerty, OF, South Alabama: Keep hitting After going undrafted out of high school, Swaggerty has done nothing but perform since entering the college ranks with South Alabama in 2016. He’s hit .331/.459/.493 across two seasons in the Sun Belt Conference and performed this summer with the US Collegiate team as well, to the tune of a .328/.449/.406 line at the top of the lineup. He profiles as a better center fielder than some of the other college outfielders at the top of the class and has little to no real holes in his game. The one nit you could pick with Swaggerty is limited history of wood bat power or the fact that he has just two extra-base hits against lefthanders, but he simply needs to continue doing what he’s already done to jump off the board quickly.
16. Griffin Conine, OF, Duke: Cut down on strikeouts Conine has some of the best recent history of any college player in the class, after hitting .298/.425/.546 with 13 home runs last spring with Duke and back-to-back summers showing power in wood bat leagues—16 home runs in the Northwoods League in 2016 and nine more in the Cape Cod League in 2017. Conine could improve his stock more this spring if he’s able to maintain that sort of impact while cutting his strikeouts. He’s struck out in 17 percent of his Duke at-bats, but that rate was even higher with a wood bat in the Cape last summer, when he struck out 23 percent of the time.
17. Jeremy Eierman, SS, Missouri State: Improve defense at shortstop After a strong freshman campaign with Missouri State in 2016, Eierman exploded in 2017 during his sophomore season, hitting .313/.431/.675 over 63 games and tying Mississippi State slugger Brent Rooker for the fifth-most home runs in Division I (23). After a poor summer with the US Collegiate team (.125/.182/.225) Eierman has a poor statistical history with wood bats, though his play in the Mountain Valley Conference has scouts confident in his power potential. This spring he’ll need to show more fluidity defensively to improve his case as a shortstop at the next level—though he has more than enough arm for the position—as some scouts think a move to third base is inevitable in the future. Producing for a third year at the plate could help ease some questions about Eierman’s hit tool as well.
18. Ryan Weathers, LHP, Loretto (Tenn.) HS: Add physicality The son of 19-year Major League veteran David Weathers, Ryan is a mature lefthander with a quick arm and good feel for a sinking, low 90s fastball and mid 70s curveball. The two pitches are extremely tough for hitters to barrel, with significant fastball life and a curveball with great spin that he’s comfortable using away from lefthanded hitters and backdooring righties. Currently a bit soft-bodied, scouts would like to see Weathers come out this spring a bit more physically defined, improve his sitting velocity and see more consistency with his changeup.
19. Mason Denaburg, RHP/C, Merritt Island (Fla.) HS: Show consistent secondaries Some scouts think Denaburg will have plus command down the line, and last summer the Florida commit showed no problems spotting a low-to-mid 90s fastball to either side of the plate, seemingly with ease. Denaburg usually sits in the low 90s, but has touched 96-97 at times and also has some power in the bat at the plate. He’s a pro prospect on the mound though and rarely spent time at catcher this summer. During the spring evaluators will look to get a better read on Denaburg’s secondary offerings after relying mostly on his fastball during the summer. He has two legit secondaries in a sharp, sweeping breaking ball and a changeup that he used effectively during the 2017 National High School Invitational for Merrit Island (Fla.) High but showing those pitches with more consistently this spring could help him jump up boards.
College Baseball Week Six Standouts: Dylan Crews Delivers, Rhett Lowder Spins Gem
This past week was a big one for those who love power, as the headliners of this week’s piece all slugged multiple home runs.
20. Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech: Improve footwork; cut down on strikeouts Bart had a down summer after dealing with a groin injury that limited him, but scouts raved about how the Georgie Tech backstop looked this fall. Bart has tremendous raw power and a plus arm as well as a history of success in the Cape Cod League when healthy. While he can get stiff at times, scouts think he can turn into an average defender down the line if not better with some improvement with his footwork. Cutting down the strikeouts will be another area for improvement with Bart, after striking out 50 times last season in 208 plate appearances (24 percent).
21. Tristan Pompey, OF, Kentucky: Improve outfield defense; keep hitting During his sophomore season in 2017, Pompey led the SEC in hits (along with Brent Rooker, who also had 96), was second in runs scored (70), third in on-base percentage (.464) and fourth in batting average (.361). Full of tools, Pompey’s struggles last summer on the Cape (.230/.284/.345 with 24 strikeouts and seven walks) raised some questions but his history in the SEC likely helps him more than a 23-game summer stint knocks him. Still, following up his breakout 2017 spring season will go a long way in reassuring decision makers, as will improving his outfield defense to give him a shot at center field at the next level.
22. Greyson Jenista, OF, Wichita State: Improve outfield defense Jenista has led Wichita State in hits his first two seasons and after struggling in the Cape Cod League during his first look, the 6-foot-4, 240 pound outfielder excelled in his second look, winning MVP honors after a .310/.391/.401 line. Defense will be the biggest question for Jenista this spring, as he’s played 60 games at first base, 34 in right field and 10 as a designated hitter through his first two years. He’s got the arm for right field, and his bat would certainly profile better there than at first, but he’ll need to get more opportunities in the outfield this spring after playing center field during the Cape
23. Will Banfield, C, Brookwood HS, Snellville, Ga.: Show more feel to hit The top prep catcher of the class, Banfield has become a polarizing player who’s tough to find a consensus on among the scouting community. Some see an extremely advanced defender with excellent receiving, blocking ability and a strong arm in addition to a powerful bat, while others have issues with his throwing mechanics and see too much swing-and-miss at the plate. There are teams who will be scared off because of the risky nature of the high school catching demographic, but it will only take one for him to go in the middle or back of the first round. Showing more consistency to hit will go a long way for Banfield this spring, and getting out of a showcase mentality that got him in the habit of trying to yank pitches for power too frequently should go a long way in helping that.
24. Triston Casas, 1B/3B, American Heritage School, Plantation, Fla.: Swing and miss less; improve defensively Along with Gorman, Casas likely has the best combination of power and hitting ability among the high school class. He led the 18U team to a fourth consecutive world title and was named MVP of the 2017 World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 World Cup after hitting a tournament-high three home runs with 13 RBIs. The WBSC also named Casas the International Player of the year, making him the first Team USA athlete to win the honor since 2011. This spring teams will look for him to continue to produce and cut down on some of the swing and miss, as he struck out a fair amount during the summer. He’s kept his body in good shape but evaluators will be looking to see how he develops physically and also try and get a better feel for his defensive ability at third base and first, though first base is the more likely destination for him at the next level.
25. Carter Stewart, RHP, Eau Gallie HS, Malbourne, Fla.: Improve the fastball Getting stronger and improving his fastball velocity could put Stewart right up with the Hankins and Liberatores of the world this spring, as his 3,000+ rpm curveball is close to unanimously the best breaking ball in the prep class—and it might be the best of the 2018 class overall. Stewart mostly sat in the upper 80s and lower 90s with his fastball, but he touched 94 mph in shorter stints and also has the frame (6-foot-6, 200 pounds) and arm speed to take a huge leap forward if he puts in the work to get more physical. Another good indicator for Stewart is how athletic and in control of his body he is. He’s an exceptional golfer who has the talent to play collegiately with the clubs as well.
26. Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State: Flash some leather at third Bohm has some of the best raw power in the class and has a solid track record of getting to that in-game, both with Wichita State and in the Coastal Plain and Cape Cod Leagues. Last summer he was named a Cape Cod League All-Star and finished second in the league with a .351 average and also hit five home runs. He also substantially improved his strikeout-to-walk rate from his freshman year to his sophomore year in 2017. For Bohm, the question will be his defense. He’s played primarily third base during his time with Wichita State, but he’s also logged time at designated hitter and first base, so reinforcing his ability to handle the hot corner will be important this spring.
27. Tim Cate, LHP, Connecticut: Throw a little harder As an undersized lefthander with a strong college track record and a fastball that’s more ordinary than exceptional, Cate represents a safer option with a lower ceiling than many of the pitchers around him who are riskier with more upside. Still, Cate has a plus curveball that he locates well and has struck out more than 11 batters per nine innings in both of his seasons with Connecticut. He also led the Collegiate national team with 20 strikeouts in 12 innings last summer and posted the second-lowest batting average against (.081). A bump in velocity this spring would improve his stock and give evaluators more faith that he will continue to generate swings and misses in pro ball.
28. Mike Vasil, RHP, Boston College HS: Build more track record Decision makers will be craving more looks at Vasil this spring after the Massachusetts righthander performed in a big way at Area Codes. There, he showed starter traits with an extremely clean delivery, a solid four-pitch mix including a fastball up to 94 and a great frame at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds. Simply continuing to do that in front of evaluators will help Vasil improve his stock as he doesn’t have the amount of history as some of the other arms on this list.
29. Steele Walker, OF, Oklahoma: Hit for more power; get better defensively Walker was one of the top hitters on the Collegiate National Team over the summer and was named MVP in both of the first two international series the team played. This summer was no aberration, as Walker has hit everywhere he’s gone during his college career. He is a career .313 hitter at Oklahoma and he won the 2016 Northwoods League batting title. Walker’s hittability is his best tool, but the lefthanded hitter still has some questions to answer. He played right field for Team USA in deference to Travis Swaggerty, and scouts question whether Walker has enough power for a corner spot. If he can this spring convince them he can play in center field or shows more power, it would go a long way to abating any concerns that he’s a tweener.
30. Cole Wilcox, RHP, Heritage HS, Ringgold, Ga.: Clean up the delivery, improve the consistency of the slider Wilcox is another talented Georgia arm in this year’s high school class with a solid three-pitch mix including a low 90s fastball, low 80s slider and a mid 80s changeup. He’s projectable with a 6-foot-5, 220 pound frame but has a lot going on in his delivery including a long arm action, with some effort and recoil. Because of that, there are starter/reliever questions currently, so cleaning up the mechanics could help in addition to adding more consistency to his slider, which he’s not regularly on top of and breaks early at times. The immense projection Wilcox offers is tempered somewhat by the fact that he’ll be 19 two months after the draft.
31. Xavier Edwards, SS, North Broward Prep, Coconut Creek, Fla.: Show off a better arm at shortstop Pound-for-pound Edwards might be the best baseball player in the high school class, but at 5-foot-10, 155 pounds Edwards will have his doubters and will never project for much impact at the plate despite having one of the better hit tools of the class. The biggest question for Edwards this spring will be whether or not he’s a shortstop or a second baseman at the next level. He’s immensely twitchy with terrific footwork and a terrific exchange, but his arm strength is more fringe-average at this point and will need to show that he can make all the throws that a major league shortstops are required to. Nick Allen was last year’s diminutive prep shortstop, but he was more advanced defensively at this point—with a plus arm—in the eyes of some evaluators, although Edwards is a much better runner.