2019 MLB Draft Stock Watch: Revisiting Preseason To-Do Lists
Back in January, we took a look at the top 32 draft prospects entering the season and identified areas of improvement for them to improve or solidify their draft stock.
With just two months until the draft, the clock is winding down and it’s crunch time for prospects who still have something left to prove. Much has changed since we released this list of players, and several are no longer considered first-round prospects. But it’s informative to touch base with them all to see who has improved, who has regressed and who is holding steady—and answer the why, to each of those questions, which is more interesting in the first place.
We’ll go in the original reverse order of the rankings, with each players’ updated BA rank in parentheses.
32. Kameron Misner, OF, Missouri (6)
Areas To Improve: Health, contact ability
After playing just 34 games last season, Misner has played in every game for Missouri this season and came out of the gate extremely hot, shooting himself up into the top of the first round. He had both items on his to-do list checked off, but March was a bit more of a struggle. Dating back to Missouri’s series against Northwestern, Misner has gone just 10-for-64 with 24 strikeouts and 17 walks, dipping his season line down to .255/.429/.443.
31. Michael Busch, 1B, North Carolina (26)
Areas To Improve: Defensive profile, athleticism, speed, arm
Busch has played left field for the Tar Heels this season, and while he’s not going to win any Gold Gloves there, he has at least shown that he’s playable and could handle the position if needed in the future. Most teams will still prefer him at first, where he’s a good defender, but he’s opened the door to handling a corner outfield spot if needed, though his arm and running ability are both below-average.
30. Maurice Hampton, OF, Memphis University HS (31)
Areas To Improve: Quality of at-bats, desire to play baseball, performance versus weak competition
Hampton has homered a few times early in the season and been largely the same player he was last summer. There’s still some stiffness in his operation and he’ll need to improve his approach when he faces better pitching, but teams haven’t been able to bear down on him too much to this point. The next two months will be big for Hampton.
29. J.J. Bleday, OF, Vanderbilt (21)
Areas To Improve: Power, speed
After hitting six home runs during his first two seasons combined, Bleday has blasted 11 so far this season in just 28 games. That increased in-game power will get teams excited, as Bleday’s track record of hitting is already impressive on its own right. With more power, it becomes a lot easier to see him profiling in a corner, and a .354 ISO and .709 slugging percentage would be career highs for the Vanderbilt outfielder if he maintains this pace.
28. Braden Shewmake, SS/3B, Texas A&M (35)
Areas To Improve: Power, shortstop defense
Scouts continue to nitpick with Shewmake, who is hitting at a high level for the third straight year in the Southeastern Conference. Teams want to see more physicality with him, and while he’s hit for slightly more power through 30 games this season, it hasn’t been enough to move the needle. He also hasn't done anything to change his defensive profile. In all, Shewmake has an unorthodox profile and swing, but he continues to produce.
27. Bryson Stott, SS, Nevada-Las Vegas (5)
Areas To Improve: Power, speed, range, quickness
Stott’s approach this season has been completely different than the slap-heavy look he showed off last summer with USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team. He’s gotten stronger in his lower half and tapped into more in-game power, but that will be worth watching over the final few months. Stott hasn’t homered since March 3 against Fresno State and has just three extra-base hits (all doubles) in the 18 games since. His defensive profile remains the same.
26. Spencer Jones, LHP, La Costa Canyon HS, Carlsbad, Calif. (63)
Areas To Improve: Curveball, body, changeup development
A fractured elbow ended Jones’ season and will make things more difficult for teams in regards to the draft. Most think he’ll be a tough sign out of Vanderbilt at this point, and rightfully so. Jones has massive upside on the mound when healthy, but he didn’t show much of it this spring in the brief time he did get on the field. If he does get to Vanderbilt, Jones could impact the team as both a pitcher and hitter.
25. Ryne Nelson, RHP, Oregon (47)
Areas To Improve: Show starter ability, changeup development
The starter experiment didn’t work out with Nelson, who started his first four games of the season. He threw 20.1 inning and struck out 26 batters, but also allowed 13 earned runs (5.76 ERA) and walked 14. The raw stuff is still extremely impressive, but where he goes will depend on how much teams value relievers in the draft in 2019.
24. Rece Hinds, 3B, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla. (25)
Areas To Improve: Contact, all things defense
Hinds has been the same player so far this spring, showing light-tower power but also swinging and missing too often. He draws split reviews, with some teams much lower on him because of the hit tool questions and other teams all-in on the big-time tools and potential. The National High School Invitational (NHSI) is this week in Cary, N.C., and will be a great opportunity for him to put together strong at-bats against high-end pitching.
23. Tyler Callihan, 3B/2B, Providence HS, Jacksonville (24)
Areas To Improve: Body, third base defense
Callihan has received some time behind the plate this spring, and scouts say he’s looked better there. Regardless, his bat is strong enough that most teams will likely opt to put Calilhan at either second or third base, where his bat should develop quicker. He has outstanding makeup and the work ethic that will give teams confidence that he'll figure out whatever defensive position he plays.
22. Alek Manoah, RHP, West Virginia (18)
Areas To Improve: Body, work deep into games, control
Manoah has thrown at least six innings in all but one of his seven starts so far this season, with the one exception being a two-inning outing against Oregon State on March 1. His last four starts have seen him throw at least seven innings in each, and his stuff has held up well in that time as well. Manoah's walks per nine innings are down to 3.09 this season, a noted improvement from his 5.34 walks per nine in 2017 and a 4.67 per nine mark last season.
21. Brett Baty, 3B, Lake Travis HS, Austin (22)
Areas To Improve: Body, third base defense
Baty has improved his third base defense enough to the point where some scouts think he could be an above-average defender, though that’s not the consensus opinion. He’s given himself every opportunity to stick there with his play this spring, and he has continued to show impact hit and power tools.
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20. Will Wilson, SS, North Carolina State (17)
Areas To Improve: Speed, plate discipline, shortstop defense
Wilson is a bit trickier to evaluate in these terms, as his speed hasn’t improved and his defensive reputation is largely the same. He’s also struck out at a higher rate than any season with the Wolfpack, but that has also come with more walks, more power and a higher batting average through 29 games.
19. Matthew Allan, RHP, Seminole (Fla.) HS (10)
Areas To Improve: Consistent breaking ball, body, fastball control
Allan has checked off each of his boxes, as the consistency of his breaking ball is improved—with some evaluators saying it could be a future 70-grade pitch. He has also improved both his body and fastball control, and he's put himself in the top tier of pitchers who could be the first arm off the board come June.
18. Will Holland, SS, Auburn (30)
Areas To Improve: Plate discipline, power, shortstop defense
Holland has drawn walks at a higher rate through 27 games this season, but he’s striking out more and he’s hitting more like the 2017 version of himself than the 2018 version that broke out a season ago. There are questions about how well his arm plays from the hole at shortstop, and he’s hit just one home run to this point.
17. Matthew Thompson, RHP, Cypress Ranch HS, Houston (40)
Areas To Improve: Control, changeup
Control was the big item for Thompson to improve this spring, but so far scouts have seen the same version of Thompson. To this point, he's been more of a thrower than pitcher. His stuff has also fluctuated at times, though his fastball has touched the mid-90s during starts and he still flashes a plus breaking ball.
16. Nick Lodolo, LHP, Texas Christian (11)
Areas To Improve: Breaking ball development, body, control
Lodolo has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the country this season, and he has also elevated himself into the top tier of arms for the 2019 draft. He’s improved across the board, increasing his strikeout rate, lowering his walk rate and missing more bats than he ever has in college. His slider is solid-average at worst and likely a plus pitch with above-average control. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him as the first pitcher drafted in June.
15. Carter Stewart, RHP, Eastern Florida State JC (23)
Areas To Improve: Health
Stewart has taken the ball in nine starts for Eastern Florida State JC this spring, striking out 77 batters in 50.1 innings while walking 17 (3.05 per nine). The quality of his stuff has been up and down throughout the season, but he’s still flashed everything that made him a top-10 pick out of high school. Teams will be wary of the medical, but he’s done everything he can to show he’s healthy.
14. Jerrion Ealy, OF, Jackson (Miss.) Prep HS (32)
Areas To Improve: Quality of at-bats, desire to play baseball, power
Ealy hasn’t looked good early in the season, with some real adjustments that will need to be made once he gets to the next level—whether that’s college or high school—in regards to cleaning up his approach and the mechanics in his lower half. He’s an elite talent on the football field and loves the game, so while his tools still give him a high ceiling, it might be tough to buy him out of a two-sport commitment to Mississippi given what he’s shown this spring.
13. Tyler Dyson, RHP, Florida (53)
Areas To Improve: SEC performance, health, swing-and-miss stuff
This season has been a bit of a disaster for Dyson, who was bumped from Florida’s Friday night role and is looking at a career-high ERA (5.34) through seven starts and 32 innings. He hasn’t made any improvements to his control, and he’s also striking out fewer batters (6.75 per nine) than both his 2017 and 2018 seasons with just average secondaries despite solid fastball velocity. How far Dyson will fall is up for debate, but he’s certainly not among the top tier pitchers in the class at this point.
12. Zack Thompson, LHP, Kentucky (14)
Areas To Improve: Health, strike-throwing, changeup
Thompson has taken the ball each week this season and, like Lodolo, has been remarkably consistent. He’s struck out eight or more batters in each start and taken the ball at least six innings in each of his last five starts, including a nine-inning shutout against Georgia last weekend that featured 13 strikeouts and just two hits. His walk rate is at a career-low (2.89 per nine), his strikeout rate is at a career-high (14.02) and his ERA is sitting at a career-best 2.06 through seven starts. Check, check, check.
11. Daniel Espino, RHP, Georgia Premier Academy, Statesboro, Ga. (12)
Areas To Improve: Delivery and arm action, changeup
Espino is throwing with the same delivery and arm action that will scare some teams, but the stuff is the same dynamic arsenal that’s the best in the 2019 class, with a changeup that has shown solid development. Espino’s consistency from start to start hasn’t been as solid as scouts want to see, as his stuff and command will tick down when he throws once a week as opposed to once every ten days or so. The stuff is enough to keep him in the top tier of arms, but some teams will likely be out entirely on his arm action and size.
10. Brennan Malone, RHP, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla. (16)
Areas To Improve: Control, breaking ball consistency, changeup
Malone has thrown well and continued to flash big stuff, but scouts still haven’t seen the breaking ball as consistently as they would like. He scatters the strike zone at times with both his fastball and his secondaries, but there’s enough projection and athleticism to keep Malone from falling out of the first round.
9. Graeme Stinson, LHP, Duke (41)
Areas To Improve: Work deep into games, changeup, athleticism
Like Dyson, Stinson’s stock has been in a free fall this spring. He came out of the gate with worse stuff across the board than what he showed last summer, routinely in the mid- to upper 80s with his fastball and with less power on a slider that was previously a 70-grade offering. Stinson has also missed the last two weekends and hasn't pitched since March 15, when he threw four innings against Louisville and struck out only three batters.
8. Josh Jung, 3B, Texas Tech (9)
Areas To Improve: Looser body, defensive profile, use the whole field
While scouts are still split on how long Jung will be able to stick at third base, most have liked what they’ve seen from him at the hot corner. He’s still hitting— because he always does—but he’s hit just two home runs this season (both coming in the second half of March). Despite that lack of power, most scouts still expect him to tap into more in the future and see him coming off the board quickly.
7. Corbin Carroll, OF, Lakeside HS, Seattle (8)
Areas To Improve: Power, arm strength
We’re entering nitpick territory, and Carroll will never have massive power due to his size, but some scouts believe he might have potential average power thanks to his feel for putting the barrel on the ball. There have also been reports that he's throwing with above-average arm strength with good carry as well.
6. Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor (15)
Areas To Improve: Hit tool, plate coverage
Breaking a hamate bone and missing time dropped Langeliers a few spots. Since he’s been back, he’s hit .258 (15-for-58) with six walks and eight strikeouts. Scouts would like to see him perform with the bat more, but there’s a limit to how much a catcher with his tools will slide in this draft class even if he doesn’t hit well this season. That’s how highly the industry thinks of his defensive ability.
5. Riley Greene, OF, Hagerty HS, Oviedo, Fla. (7)
Areas To Improve: Speed, defense, arm
Greene has largely been the same player so far this spring, with nothing to move him either up or down draft boards. He’ll be seen this week by plenty of scouts and directors at USA Baseball’s National High School Invitational, where he could impact his draft stock.
4. Andrew Vaughn, 1B, California (2)
Areas To Improve: Continue hitting at exceptional rate, improve range and defensive profile
Vaughn has cooled off slightly after opening the season on a tear, but cooling off for Andrew Vaughn still means hitting .360/.530/.721 with nine home runs and 27 walks to 16 strikeouts. His bat is enough to make him the 1b to Adley Rutschman’s 1a, and he should fly through the minors of whichever organization selects him. He doesn’t offer much value defensively outside of first base, but he has good hands and moves well, so he certainly won’t hurt you there.
3. C.J. Abrams, SS, Blessed Trinity HS, Roswell, Ga. (4)
Areas To Improve: Shortstop defense, strength gains
Abrams will also get a chance to perform in front of a huge crowd of scouts at the National High School Invitational this week, but he’s already thought of in the top tier of players in the class. Most scouts think he’ll eventually be a very good defender in the outfield, but he should still get every chance to prove them wrong at shortstop. He’ll need to improve his arm and show that he can throw from multiple angles to do so. He has improved his strength and you could project average power on him at this point, with above-average potential to the pull-side if you really like him.
2. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Colleyville (Texas) Heritage HS (3)
Areas To Improve: Contact ability, arm accuracy
Witt has hit just fine this spring and solidified himself in the top tier of 2019 players along with Rutschman, Vaughn and Abrams. He shouldn’t get outside of the top five picks at this point.
1. Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State (1)
Areas To Improve: Health, arm strength
Nothing to see here. Rutschman is still the consensus 1-1 player in the draft, and he’s hitting .410/.586/.782, which is on par with Andrew Vaughn’s 2018 Golden Spikes-winning slash line. He's doing all of this while playing excellent defense at catcher and showing the most power of his career.