Image credit: UCLA's Garrett Mitchell (Photo by Katherine Lotze/Getty Images)
Welcome to Baseball America’s Draft Stock Watch. A recurring feature throughout draft season, we’ll use this space to explore rising and falling prospects in the 2020 draft class and also dive into various themes and topics at greater length. You can see previous installments below:
How Potential First Rounders Can Boost Their Stock | How Juco Can Pay Off | 10 Sleepers To Watch | Will Robo Umps Affect Catcher Scouting?| A Strong Year For Eligible-Sophomores | Nick Gonzales Keeps Hitting
In today’s stock watch, we’re taking a look at 10 players whose draft stock is ticking up. For some players that’s because of an improved toolset and for others it’s because of strong performance out of the gate. For all of the players mentioned though, there’s still plenty of time for further movement in either direction—sustained success is recommended.
Without further delay, let’s jump right in.
*Players are listed with their current BA Draft rank in parenthesis, where applicable.
Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA (No. 8)
Several scouts have called Mitchell one of the best players they’ve ever scouted this spring. The UCLA outfielder could have the biggest upside of any player in the class thanks to his outstanding toolset and that means he should be considered among the top five picks if he continues to perform this spring.
Through 11 games Mitchell has hit .372/.472/.512 with six doubles, six walks to three strikeouts and has gone 3-for-4 in stolen bases. Evaluators believe his pitch selection has improved this spring, which is allowing him to take more advantage of the above-average bat-to-ball skills he’s always possessed.
With 80-grade running ability, Mitchell’s average should always get a healthy BABIP boost, while he projects to stick in center field with plus arm strength and plus defensive ability as well. With potentially 70-grade raw power in batting practice, it’s hard to find a single tool that Mitchell doesn’t have, but questions about minor injuries and his Type I Diabetes will complicate decisions for clubs this June.
Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, Calif. (No. 24)
Crow-Armstrong entered last summer as the top-ranked player on our 2020 high school draft list, but a disappointing few months with the bat dropped him to the back of the first round. Reports are coming in from him early this spring though and it sounds like the Crow-Armstrong of old is back.
He’s been hitting at a high level, using the entire field and crushing baseballs consistently. Crow-Armstrong will always have a hit-over-power game, with some scouts putting below-average future power on him, but he’s been hitting hard line drives everywhere, posting some double-plus run times to first and throwing better than he did over the summer.
There’s some chatter that Crow-Armstrong is now in consideration to go among the first 15 picks, but the industry could still have some reservations thanks to how Mickey Moniak and Blake Rutherford have both performed in pro ball. Either way, he’s trending in the right direction after a bit of a disconcerting summer.
Jared Jones, RHP, La Mirada (Calif.) HS (No. 54)
Jones has smoothed out his delivery this spring and, like Crow-Armstrong, is getting more of the underclass hype that made him famous in the first place. While he’s always shown impressive pure stuff, Jones had a tendency to get erratic with his strikes.
It sounds like he’s improved in that regard after making some tweaks to his operation. Evaluators always hoped he’d be able to make adjustments thanks to his elite athleticism, and it sounds like that might be the case this year. Jones threw five no-hit innings in a recent start against Pacifica (Garden Grove, Calif.) High, with 12 strikeouts and two walks.
He’s an intense competitor and scouts admire that mentality on the mound, though he will need to continue improving the consistency of his slider. His fastball is more than enough to overwhelm high school hitters at the moment, with impressive rising life.
Kevin Parada, C, Loyola HS, Los Angeles (No. 62)
This year’s prep class has some impressive depth at catcher and it seems like every week we are hearing about another backstop who’s impressing. This week it’s Kevin Parada, who seemed to routinely square up baseballs the entire summer and is doing more of the same this spring.
He’s raking every time scouts come to the yard, hitting baseballs to all fields—and against all types of pitches—with authority. There’s a chance for a future 60-grade bat with 60-grade raw power as well.
While Parada has above-average arm strength, evaluators believe it’s playing down thanks to some length in the back of his arm action and the reviews about his overall defense are less than his offensive game. By the time Parada moves through the minors defensive value could be completely entirely different, and the game will likely trend towards more offensive-oriented backstops. Parada might have to be taken soon to sign out of a Georgia Tech commit, where he could blow up if he makes it to school.
Hunter Barnhart, RHP, St. Joseph HS, Santa Maria, Calif. (No. 158)
We reported last week that Barnhart was rising, and today we have more detailed information on how scouts are seeing the Southern California righty.
After initially reporting that Barnhart was up to 96, other evaluators have seen him more consistently in the 90-94 range, though most scouts agree he has a hammer breaking ball that is getting present plus grades. He’s also got a changeup that he’s sprinkled in to keep hitters off-balance.
There seems to be a bit of a split-camp within the industry at the moment in terms of Barnhart’s true upside, but he should be a factor at some point late on Day 1 or early on Day 2 given the uptick in stuff he’s shown this spring. Last summer, Barnhart was a polished righty who showed good strike throwing ability and a fastball that was more in the 88-91 mph range.
Jared Shuster, LHP, Wake Forest (No. 165)
Another pitcher who has added stuff this spring is Wake Forest lefthander Jared Shuster. After previously throwing in the 88-92 mph range, Shuster has taken a jump and has been up to 96-97 mph at his best with improved strike throwing as well.
Shuster had a strong summer in the Cape, where he posted a 1.41 ERA in 32 innings with 35 strikeouts and five walks, and seems to be carrying over that success. He’s posted a 4.74 ERA over his first three starts and 19 innings, but has a terrific strikeout-to-walk rate, with 30 strikeouts and just three walks. He got hit around a bit in his last outing against Long Beach State, but that sort of stuff and improved control from the left side has scouts interested.
With an improving breaking ball and a plus changeup, Shuster is pushing himself into Day 1 consideration. He’s added around 10 pounds of weight since his freshman season, and is now listed at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds.
Zach DeLoach, OF, Texas A&M (No. 172)
DeLoach entered last summer as a career .236/.338/.338 hitter, but exploded in the Cape and finished as the No. 14 prospect in the league. He simplified his swing and added a toe tap to help his timing, which helped him hit .353/.428/.541 with five homers.
He’s continued that pace through three weekends this spring, hitting .586/.675/.1.103 with four home runs, three doubles and nine walks to just one strikeout. His slugging percentage is good for 13th in the country, while his on-base percentage is good for ninth.
DeLoach will be an enigma for teams to figure out if he keeps up this pace against better competition, as they try and square his Cape performance against his previous track record at A&M. He has solid tools as a good runner with solid-average arm strength and some pop in the bat, but scouts with history might be mixed on where he belongs—making him an interesting pick for a team with multiple comp picks which might make the risk more palatable.
Connor Phillips, RHP, McLennan (Texas) JC (No. 183)
Phillips has shown good stuff over three starts, with a fastball that’s gotten up into the 96-98 mph range, a slider that has future plus potential and good feel for a firm changeup.
While Phillips has struck out 18 batters in 16.1 innings (9.9 per nine) through three starts this season, he’s also walked nine (5.0 per nine). He’ll need to be more consistent with his strike throwing moving forward, but the pure stuff is impressive and he has life on his fastball in addition to velocity.
Corey Collins, C, North Gwinnett HS, Suwanee, Ga. (No. 185)
We mentioned Parada above, but there’s another prep catcher who’s getting some attention early this spring and that’s Collins. He might have made more of a name for himself over the summer, but missed time with an injury.
Still, he was seen at USA Baseball’s PDP League where he showed strength, bat speed and some ability to barrel high velocity. Collins has a good frame with solid catch-and-throw skills with power potential from the left side.
He’s gotten some day one chatter early this spring, but could be a difficult sign. Collins is committed to Georgia.
Christian Roa, RHP, Texas A&M
We’ve now touched on two Texas A&M prospects not named Asa Lacy, which means the Aggies are going to be seen plenty this spring.
Roa cruised through his first two starts of the season before running into a strong UCLA team—now ranked No. 5 in the country—last Saturday, but scouts have been impressed with what they’ve seen from the 6-foot-4, 220-pound righty.
He throws a fastball that’s regularly in the 92-94 mph range and has been up a few ticks higher than that at his best, lands two breaking balls well and also brings an easy plus changeup to the table. He’s got a lot of starter traits, and a track record of good strike throwing with A&M, though this is his first season as a full-time starter.
If he can handle that role with success as Texas A&M moves into SEC play, he’ll move significantly up the board. Through three starts and 15.2 innings, Roa has a 4.60 ERA and 29 strikeouts (16.7 per nine) to five walks (2.87 per nine).
Notes From The Field
At Baseball America, we travel around the country throughout the season. Here are notes from our in-person looks. This week we checked out the Keith LeClair Classic, hosted by East Carolina, which featured ECU, Mississippi, Indiana and High Point.
Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, Mississippi
(2021 Class; No. 9 college prospect)
A supplemental first round pick in the 2018 draft, Hoglund and the Pirates couldn’t agree to a signing bonus, which was good news for Ole Miss. Hoglund had a reputation as one of the best strike throwers in the 2018 prep class and that translated to the college game, as Hoglund walked just 14 batters in 68 innings (1.85 per nine) during his freshman season.
Hoglund took the ball for Ole Miss on Saturday against ECU, and while he didn’t show the sort of high-end velocity that he’s shown previously—weather likely suppressed velocity across the board this weekend—he pitched well over six innings, allowing just one unearned run and five hits while striking out eight batters and walking one.
Listed at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Hoglund has added about 10 pounds since his high school days, though he still has a good, lean frame with room for additional weight in the future and a strong lower half. Hoglund throws with a fairly clean and easy three-quarter arm slot, with crossfiring action in his lower half.
His fastball touched 92 mph early, but he settled into the 87-90 mph range for the duration of his outing. He gets good downhill angle on the fastball and it showed some cutting action to his glove side and running life to his armside as well. He showed good ability to spot the pitch to both sides of the plate, elevating at times when hunting for a strikeout and he also used the pitch to get a few key groundouts and double play balls.
His putaway pitch in this outing was an above-average 80-83 mph slider, which had tight spin and no obvious break point. The pitch looked like a fastball out of his hand and dove away from righthanded batters. He generated nine whiffs with the pitch and used it to finish five of his eight strikeouts. Hoglund hung the pitch at times later in the outing, but it was a consistent swing-and-miss offering for the most part and especially effective when he kept it down in the zone, which he did for the most part.
Hoglund occasionally used an 80-82 mph changeup in this outing, but it was a distant third offering.
The polished righthander did a nice job in this outing and showed impressive control and command. He’ll be one of the better college arms in what is shaping up to be another strong group in 2021 and undoubtedly will show better fastball velocity in most outings, more typically in the low-90s. Over three starts this season, Hoglund has posted a 1.56 ERA with 27 strikeouts and just four walks in 17.1 innings.
Anthony Servideo, SS, Mississippi
Servideo entered Greenville as one of the more interesting 2020 prospects thanks to the offensive growth he had shown in the first two weeks and a number of scouts were bearing down on the 5-foot-10, 175-pound shortstop. He continued to hit over the three-game stretch, going 5-for-11 with five walks to just one strikeout.
“He’s always been that kind of table-setter, electric on the base paths, kind of lead-off-type guy,” said Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco. “He might not always have batted lead-off for us, but you always knew that he had that. The game has just elevated to where he’ll run it out of the yard if you leave it in the middle of the plate, he’ll take the walk, he’ll hit a double.
“He can do so many things offensively… We’re off to a great start, and I think one of the reasons is because of Anthony.”
Servideo is a patient, selective hitter who rarely swings at the first pitch and seems to have a good understanding of the strike zone. He regularly spit on close pitches just off the plate in two-strike counts and was happy to simply take his walks when opposing pitchers didn’t challenge him—as evidenced by his team-leading 12 walks.
“It just shows the maturity. Not a lot of guys can do that, especially when you’re hitting close to .500 and you’ve got four home runs on the year. We haven’t given him many takes, we’ve just let him go, and it just shows the maturity that he’ll take the pitches out of the zone and get on base.”
He showed solid bat-to-ball skills over the weekend, though didn’t show any over-the-fence power and his size doesn’t suggest that will ever be a significant part of his game. He should be able to hit balls into the gaps and use his speed to grab extra bases.
Defensively, Servideo showed impressive hands and picked everything that was hit to him. He also made an impressive pick on a one-hopped throw to second base to help catch a runner stealing. However on one difficult play to his backside in the hole, Servideo overthrew first base while on the run moving away from his target.
Servideo likely fits somewhere in the middle of Day 2 and could push himself higher with sustained offensive performance that might allow evaluators to overlook a poor summer in the Cape (.149/.277/.228) and his previous Ole Miss track record.
Alec Burleson, LHP/1B, East Carolina (No. 179)
A solid college player with a track record on both sides of the ball with ECU and Team USA, scouts wonder what Burleson’s ceiling is in pro ball. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff on the mound or the power you’d like to use to profile at first base, but has hitting ability and a four-pitch mix.
Indiana roughed up Burleson in his Friday start, as the 6-foot-2, 212-pound lefty lasted just 2.2 innings while surrendering eight hits and six earned runs. He struck out two batters and pitched with an 86-88 mph fastball that didn’t miss many bats.
Burleson showed a curveball and a slider, the former in the mid-70s and the latter in the low-80s, but his best offering was a 76-79 mph changeup that mirrored the sink and running movement of his fastball. He used the pitch to get four whiffs in the first inning alone, but
Burleson’s fastball got hit around too much in the ensuing innings for him to be effective.
At the plate, Burleson showed some bat-to-ball skills, but he frequently was out in front on off-speed offerings and had a pull-heavy approach. Perhaps his best at-bat of the weekend came when he turned on an 88-mph fastball that was in on his hands, pulling a low line drive down the right field line.
Over the weekend, Burleson went 4-for-13 with a home run on Sunday against High Point.
Doug Nikhazy, LHP, Mississippi
(2021 Class; No. 31 college prospect)
Ole Miss’ Friday starter, Nikhazy threw 5.2 solid innings against High Point, allowing four hits and two earned runs while striking out five batters and walking one.
A short lefthander who’s listed at 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, Nikhazy showed a four-pitch mix including a fastball that sat in the 87-90 mph range in this outing. Nikhazy throws from an over-the-top slot and has some tilt in his delivery, with slight crossfiring action and some head whack as he delivers, but lands balanced in good fielding position.
He showed solid ability to locate his entire arsenal, particularly a big breaking curveball in the 70-77 mph range that featured plenty of depth. While the shape is impressive, the pitch humps out of his hand and lacked power in the finish at times, and Nikhazy generated just three whiffs with it. He also threw a slider in the 77-80 mph range that had more lateral movement and a changeup in the 76-79 mph range that showed some fade to the armside, though his arm did slow on the pitch at times.