2019 Draft Stock Watch: A Historic Year For Texas?
Texas is annually regarded as one of the powerhouse states for producing draft talent. Along with California and Florida, Texas was one of just three states which accounted for more than 1,000 professional baseball players when Baseball America did our Baseball Hotbeds issue last summer.
But, at least recently, that’s been more the product of impressive depth throughout the draft rather than overwhelming talent at the top.
This decade, both Florida and California have produced 46 players that have been drafted in the first round—good for an average of 5.11 first round picks per year. Texas clocks in at 24 first-round draft picks since 2010, averaging just 2.66 picks per year. That puts the Lone Star state behind Georgia (26 picks, 2.88 picks per year) and ahead of North Carolina (16 picks, 1.77 picks per year).
|2018||11||Grayson Rodriguez||RHP||Central Heights HS, Nacogdoches, Texas||Orioles|
|2018||12||Jordan Groshans||SS||Magnolia (Texas) HS||Blue Jays|
|2017||12||Shane Baz||RHP||Concordia Lutheran HS, Tomball, Texas||Pirates|
|2016||17||Forrest Whitley||RHP||Alamo Heights HS, San Antonio||Astros|
|2016||24||Hudson Potts||SS||Carroll HS, Southlake, Texas||Padres|
|2015||15||Trent Grisham||OF||Richland HS, North Richland Hills, Texas||Brewers|
|2015||22||Beau Burrows||RHP||Weatherford (Texas) HS||Tigers|
|2015||32||Ke'Bryan Hayes||3B||Concordia Luthern HS, Tomball, Texas||Pirates|
|2014||2||Tyler Kolek||RHP||Shepherd (Texas) HS||Marlins|
|2014||17||Brandon Finnegan||LHP||Texas Christian||Royals|
|2014||33||Michael Kopech||RHP||Mount Pleasant (Texas) HS||Red Sox|
|2013||4||Kohl Stewart||RHP||St. Pius X HS, Houston||Twins|
|2013||8||Hunter Dozier||SS||Stephen F. Austin State||Royals|
|2013||24||Billy McKinney||OF||Plano (Texas) West HS||Athletics|
|2012||13||Courtney Hawkins||OF||Carroll HS, Corpus Christi, Texas||White Sox|
|2012||15||Tyler Naquin||OF||Texas A&M||Indians|
|2012||19||Michael Wacha||RHP||Texas A&M||Cardinals|
|2010||2||Jameson Taillon||RHP||The Woodlands (Texas) HS||Pirates|
|2010||6||Barret Loux||RHP||Texas A&M||Diamondbacks|
|2010||28||Zach Lee||RHP||McKinney (Texas) HS||Dodgers|
During the last eight years, Texas has produced either two or three first round draft picks. You have to go back to 2006 to find the state’s most impactful first-round draft class, which included six players and was headlined by the best pitcher in baseball this decade, lefthander Clayton Kershaw — drafted No. 7 overall by the Dodgers out of Highland Park High (University Park, Texas). Conversely, Florida had nine first-round picks in 2018 and seven in 2012, while California had eight in 2014 and seven in 2013.
This year, Texas might buck the recent trend of depth throughout the draft taking precedence over impact talent at the top. After conversations with area scouts and midwest crosscheckers over the last few weeks, it’s apparent that Texas is bursting at the seams with potential first-round picks. In fact, 2019 could wind up being the best draft year for the state this century.
In today’s Draft Stock Watch, we’ll take a look at all the prospects who, as of right now, have a chance to go in the first round and set a new bar for Texas talent.
1. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Colleyville (Texas) Heritage High
Witt should be a lock to go among the first ten picks this June, and he’s more likely to go in the top half of those picks than the back half. He’s continued to look like the same player that he was last summer and fall—hitting for power and showing off his speed and athleticism on the bases and on defense, with the one critique of his game being the swing-and-miss that he shows at times.
2. Josh Jung, 3B, Texas Tech
Jung is hitting .333/.465/.474 through 15 games with Texas Tech and is the best hitter in the state—college or high school. He should be one of the safer first-round picks in the country given his extensive track record of hitting at the college level. Prior to this season, Jung posted a 2018 line of .392/.491/.639, a 2017 line of .306/.395/.453 and has produced with a wood bat as well. He could elevate himself in this year’s class if he starts hitting for more power, but he should be safely inside the first 32 picks either way.
3. Nick Lodolo, LHP, Texas Christian
Lodolo has been solid every time he’s taken the ball for TCU this season, and after five starts and 33 innings he ranks ninth in the country with 46 strikeouts and tenth in WHIP with a 0.67 mark. The latter point is particularly encouraging, as scouts were previously concerned with the amount of hits that Lodolo allowed in his first two seasons despite solid stuff. In 2017, Lodolo allowed 8.69 hits per nine innings, and in 2018 he allowed 9.35. That mark is down to 4.09 this season, much more in-line with what a first-round pitcher is expected to be, with career-bests in strikeout rate (12.55 per nine) and walk rate (1.91 per nine) as well.
4. Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor
Langeliers missed about a month after breaking his hamate, but got back into game action during the team’s final game against Nebraska a few weeks ago and has played every contest for the Bears since. He’s hitting just .212/.316/.242 right now, but many teams won’t drop him significantly for the injury given his peripheral tools, skills behind the dish and the offensive potential he’s shown in previous years. He had a strong summer with USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team as well, which elevated him to the top of the draft class. Scouting directors won’t forget about that when June rolls around, and college catchers with his toolset get shoved up the board.
5. Jackson Rutledge, RHP, San Jacinto (Texas) JC
One of the biggest risers in the state, scouts have raved about Rutledge this spring. He’s physically intimidating at 6-foot-8, 280 pounds and has the stuff to match, with some scouts going as far as saying he has four plus pitches, headlined by a fastball routinely in the upper 90s and a vicious slider that’s helped him strikeout 76 batters in just 42 innings. Some teams question his strike-throwing ability, but his control has been solid this season as Rutledge has walked just 14 batters. He’s a high-upside physical outlier with a compact arm stroke in a class that is lacking established college arms.
6. Brett Baty, 3B, Lake Travis HS, Austin
Arguably the best hitter in the state outside of Jung, Baty draws some comparisons to Nolan Gorman as a lefthanded-hitting third baseman with 70-grade power, though some scouts have told Baseball America that Baty is the superior hitter. The early feedback on his defense is that it has improved at the hot corner, and while Baty is old for the class—he’ll turn 20 in November—that package of tools should get him selected in the first round.
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7. Braden Shewmake, SS, Texas A&M
Another SEC hitter with a solid track record, Shewmake could easily go in the first round. But there are a few more concerns with him given his positional fit and his lack of power development since his freshman season, when he hit 11 home runs and hit .328/.374/.529 over 64 games. Shewmake has gotten a bit stronger, but he still has a lanky, 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame that scouts would like to see filled out, along with more in-game power this season.
8. Matthew Thompson, RHP, Cypress Ranch High, Houston
A member of the High School Preseason All-America First Team, Thompson entered the year at top of the prep pitching class and has been largely the same pitcher that scouts saw last summer: an athletic righthander with a sharp breaking ball and a fastball in the low to mid-90s.
9. J.J. Goss, RHP, Cypress Ranch High, Houston
Thompson’s teammate at Cypress Ranch, Goss has improved his stock early this spring and has put himself into first-round consideration. He’s thrown a fastball in the 90-95 mph range with a plus slider and has also showcased a changeup that could be a plus pitch as well.
10. Matt Canterino, RHP, Rice
Canterino has improved each year with Rice, and that’s no different in 2019. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound righty has struck out at least six batters in each of his first five starts and has walked just five batters over 30 innings of work. He currently has a team-best 2.40 ERA and scouts are impressed with the improvement of his slider, which complements a four-pitch repertoire that includes a fastball that’s been up into the mid-90s, a curveball and a changeup. Canterino has some deception in his delivery that should allow his stuff to play up, and with his impressive strike throwing and track record at Rice and with Team USA last summer, he checks a lot of boxes.
11. Josh Wolf, RHP, St. Thomas HS, Houston
The biggest pop-up name on this list, Wolf is the only player who wasn’t ranked on the BA 200 prior to the season. He added plenty of strength over the offseason though and ticked his fastball up from the 88-91 mph range that he showed last summer and has been more 91-96 mph this spring. He also has a breaking ball that consistently looks like a future plus offering.