MLB Draft Prospects At NHSI
The top five prospects for the 2018 draft who competed at this year's National High School Invitational tournament at USA Baseball's national training complex.
1. Brice Turang, SS | Santiago HS, Corona, Calif.
NHSI: 6-for-11, 3B, 2B, 3 BB, 0 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The top-rated shortstop in the 2018 draft class looked like much the same player he’s been since popping up on the national scene years ago with USA Baseball’s 18U team. Turang clocked multiple plus run times, impressed scouts in batting practice and also hit well in games, including a 3-for-3 game with a pair of walks and a triple to deep right-center field after barreling a 73 mph curveball that caught too much of the plate.
Turang made plays defensively as well, including one challenging backhand deep in the hole where he showed impressive footwork by lining his feet up to first base before fielding the ball and making an accurate, chest-high throw to first base.
The Louisiana State commit goes to the plate with a patient approach and rarely swings and misses—according to USA Baseball’s event statistics, he swung and missed only one time in 22 swings during the four-day event. Turang has been heavily scrutinized during the entire 2018 draft cycle but is doing everything he needs to do to stick at the top.
2. Nolan Gorman, 3B | O’Connor HS, Phoenix
NHSI: 3-for-10, 2B, 4 BB, 4 SO, 4-for-5 SB
The draft buzz on Gorman entering NHSI was that the top power hitter in the class had thickened up and gotten more stiff—causing scouts to wonder if he would actually be able to stick at third base.
During Baseball America’s looks at Gorman in the field, the Arizona commit made all the routine plays, showed above-average arm strength and a quick release when necessary, as well as the ability to make accurate throws while off-balance.
The major concern that surfaced was a large number of swings and misses. Gorman showed a tendency to expand his zone regularly and swung through a number of offspeed pitches. The slugging third baseman struggled with offspeed during last summer’s 18U World Cup and was one of four batters to swing and miss 10 times or more at NHSI.
Still, Gorman led all hitters in average exit velocity (102.1 mph) and was one of just two hitters (along with Triston Casas) to average triple-digits. No one questions Gorman’s power, but there are more red flags this spring than there were last summer.
3. Matthew Liberatore, LHP | Mountain Ridge HS, Riverdale, Ariz.
NHSI: 7 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 SO
Scouts saw a brief glimpse of the velocity jump that Liberatore displayed in his first outing this spring, but after pitching in the 92-95 mph range in the first inning, he settled into the 89-91 range during his final six innings. Overall he averaged 90 mph, according to TrackMan, which was fifth highest at the event, and his peak velocity (93.3) was lower than what multiple radar guns recorded.
The Arizona commit struggled to locate his fastball and hard, 12-6 breaking ball in the first two innings, but he eventually settled in and started to find the strike zone. That included retiring the final 14 batters he faced. A new addition to Liberatore’s arsenal is a low-80s slider, which he threw nine times (out of 101 pitches) and used to finish three of his 10 strikeouts.
The offering is still a noticeable step behind his low-to-mid-70s curve—a plus pitch—but he seemed surprisingly comfortable and confident with the newer breaking ball.
4. Cole Winn, RHP | Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS
NHSI: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 9 SO
Southern California area scouts had been impressed with Winn to start the season, and scouting directors, crosscheckers and other area scouts around the country found out why during Orange Lutheran’s first game at NHSI.
Winn dominated throughout his entire six-inning outing, pitching off a fastball in the 92-95 mph range and allowing only one hit—which didn’t leave the infield. Winn paired his fastball—the hardest of the event for average and peak velocity, according to Trackman—with a plus, mid-to-upper-70s downer curveball that has sharp, late-breaking action and led to multiple swings and misses. He also held his fastball velocity.
Winn showed solid control throughout his outing—he threw a tournament-best 85 percent first-pitch strikes—with a consistent release point.
Winn put himself in first-round consideration last summer with a loud performance at the Area Code Games, and he has since added strength to separate himself in a relatively down year in Southern California after transferring from Colorado. Being the most impressive arm in an event that also included Liberatore is another step in the right direction for the Mississippi State commit.
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5. Raynel Delgado, SS | Calvary Christian Academy, Fort Lauderdale
NHSI: 3-for-11, 2B, 3B, 2 BB, 0 SO, 1-for-1 SB
Delgado is a switch-hitter with impressive power potential from both sides of the plate, but evaluators have wondered what position he’ll wind up playing. The shortstop for his talented high school team, the Florida International commit is a below-average runner, and that has caused some teams to wonder if he might ultimately profile at second or third base.
After seeing him in the field at NHSI, though, scouts might have a different take. While he might not have above-average range, Delgado made a number of different plays at the position with ease, while showing at least an above-average arm and impressive actions.
Offensively, Delgado was aggressive at the plate. That paid off when he jumped on a first-pitch, 86 mph fastball over the plate for a triple to right field, but he also rolled over on balls early in the count at times. He rarely swung and missed, but his average exit velocity against breaking balls (84.5) was quite a bit lower than his exit velo against fastballs (91.5). In a small sample that’s not a huge concern, but it’s something to monitor.