Baseball America 2018 MLB 'Staff Draft'
The staff at Baseball America has spent the better part of the year preparing for the 2018 draft, which takes place—if you didn’t know—tonight at 7 p.m. ET.
Because we’ve already finished our scouting reports on the players ranked in the BA 500, and rolled out our state lists, and updated our mock draft (which we will do again just before the draft tonight), and rolled out draft histories of every team… we figured it’s now time to play scouting director.
Below you can see a “fake draft” of what would happen if major league teams were foolish enough to give BA staff the reigns. This obviously differs from a mock draft (and Baseball America's official mock), because we aren’t trying to predict what teams will actually do, but instead what we personally would do if we were sitting in major league war rooms.
This is purely for the sake of entertaining ourselves and—ideally—readers as well. Teddy Cahill, Carlos Collazo, JJ Cooper and Kegan Lowe each participated in the exercise, with each person getting a random number to determine which teams he would pick for. Let the games begin.
1. Tigers (Teddy): Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn. This is a reasonably clear-cut choice. I drove the Brady Singer hype train for the better part of a year and I’d love to pull the trigger on the College Player of the Year here. But when I was seeing Mize for the first time this year back in March, he blew me away in just a few innings. It’s hard to argue with his stuff, track record or physicality. He’s what a No. 1 overall pick looks like.
2. Giants (Carlos): Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech. I thought really hard about taking Oregon State second baseman Nick Madrigal here at No. 2, but in the end sided with Bart’s impact and the fact that he has a chance to be an above-average defensive catcher. His numbers are extremely impressive for the position, he has power to all fields (he homers to center and the opposite field more frequently than any high-ranking power hitter aside from Trevor Larnach) and he’s got a canon. I’m also excited about the fact that he reduced his strikeout rate (from 24 percent in 2017 to 20 percent in 2018) and almost doubled his walk rate (7.7 percent in 2017, 15 percent in 2018) this season. Give me the heir to Buster Posey.
3. Phillies (Kegan): Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State. I was torn here—a 50/50 decision and I’m not positive I made the right choice. I was between Bohm and Oregon State second baseman Nick Madrigal. Ultimately, I went with Bohm because his power potential was just too much to pass up inside the top-three picks. Plus, the track record of college third basemen taken this high in the draft is encouraging. Let’s hope Bohm continues that trend for Philadelphia’s sake—and for mine.
4. White Sox (JJ): Nick Madrigal, 2B, Oregon State. The White Sox have taken a number of bat-first college hitters in recent drafts (Zack Collins, Jake Burger and Gavin Sheets). Madrigal gives them another excellent hitter, but one who is also an up-the-middle defender who should be plus defender at second base.
5. Reds (Teddy): Brady Singer, RHP, Florida. I will happily take the College Player of the Year here at No. 5. I think the Reds would be quite happy to as well. Singer gives you a polished starter who shouldn’t need too much time in the minor leagues. His fastball-slider combination is electric and his track record of performance in the Southeastern Conference is impressive.
6. Mets (Carlos): Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge HS, Glendale, Ariz. The “obvious” choice might be Jonathan India here, and given his season and the safety of college third basemen in the top-10 picks, I would have felt OK with him. But Liberatore gets me more excited, and that’s what a top-10 pick is about right? Getting you hyped up? I like Liberatore’s ceiling more than India’s as a polished lefty with a 6-foot-5 frame and a fastball that’s trending in the right direction. He has three potential plus pitches in the fastball, curveball and changeup and has also added a slider this spring that could be another offering down the line.
7. Padres (Kegan): Jonathan India, 3B, Florida. Go ahead and give me all of the college third basemen. Honestly, I expected Carlos to take India with the Mets’ pick and I was set on pairing Liberatore with the Padres. As it played out, I’m perfectly content with taking the best player available, even if it doesn’t perfectly align with the Padres’ recent tendencies. Also, I’m of the belief that this top seven—Mize, Bart, Bohm, Madrigal, Singer, Liberatore and India, in whatever order you choose—have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. If that’s the case, then the Padres just have to sit back and see which one falls.
8. Braves (JJ): Cole Winn, RHP, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS. The industry is course correcting to focus more on high school pitcher’s pitchability after emphasizing pure stuff in recent years. Winn has solid stuff, but it’s his ability to pitch that is his most notable attribute. Pitching against some of the toughest competition any high school pitcher faced this spring, he was consistently dominant.
9. Athletics (Teddy): Brice Turang, SS, Santiago HS, Corona, Calif. I apparently caused quite the stir by grabbing Turang in the top 10. But I’ll happily take the polished hitter with plus speed and a good chance to stay at shortstop. He’s been on the biggest stages high school baseball provides throughout his career and he’s always held his own.
10. Pirates (Carlos): Carter Stewart, RHP, Eau Gallie HS, Melbourne, Fla. Wow. Power move from Teddy to pop Brice Turang in the top 10. I assumed I was the highest man on Turang of this group, and wanted to get him with one of my teams in the top 15 range, but I admire the aggressiveness on his part to stick with Turang despite his stock falling a bit in the industry. He’s a premium position player with track record. I’m bummed. At No. 10, I’ll go with Carter Stewart, who I think is the best player available here, given Shane McClanahan’s reliever risk and inconsistent spring. I love Stewart’s upside as a guy with—in my opinion—the best breaking ball in the class. He’s got size and a fastball up to 97-98 too, so prep righty risk or not, I’m feeling good about this one.
11. Orioles (Kegan): Kumar Rocker, RHP, North Oconee HS, Bogart, Ga. Rocker is ranked No. 13 on the BA 500, but at this point it seems like a stretch that a team actually drafts him inside the top 15. Well, not if I was actually the GM of one of these teams. A 6-foot-4, 240-pound righthander with a mid-90s fastball, two potential plus offspeed pitches and good bloodlines as the son of former NFL defensive lineman? Sign me up.
12. Blue Jays (JJ): Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson. When in doubt, bet on a Stetson arm. The Hatters’ track record is quite good.
13. Marlins (Teddy) Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha (Wis.) West HS. Sure, there’s risk in drafting a high school hitter out of Wisconsin. But I don’t think there’s ever been one quite like Kelenic, who has proven himself with USA Baseball and oozes tools and athleticism. The upside here is significant and the Marlins have the organizational clock to take a chance on pure ceiling.
14. Mariners (Carlos) Nolan Gorman, 3B, O’Connor HS, Phoenix. I would have liked to take Turang in this spot, but without that being an option I’ll grab the player with the most power potential of anyone in the class. I was able to watch Gorman at his best over the summer and saw him hit an absolute massive home run against a 95 mph Mason Denaburg fastball—not an easy feat—in the Perfect Game All-American Classic. I saw him pick it extremely well at third base with USA Baseball’s 18U team, and I also saw him swing and miss quite a bit at the National High School Invitational this spring. I’ll bet on him figuring out the offspeed and sticking at third base with elite power.
15. Rangers (Kegan) Jordyn Adams, OF, Green Hope HS, Cary, N.C. History suggests that the Rangers are perfectly happy with taking a big hack at a high-risk, high-reward prospect in the draft. Me too. So give me Adams, who might have the highest ceiling of any player in this class. Adams is a two-sport athlete committed to play both football and baseball at North Carolina, and the thought of what he could become once he focuses solely on baseball is extremely enticing once we get outside of the top-10 picks.
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16. Rays (JJ): Noah Naylor, C/3B, St. Joan of Arc Catholic SS, Mississauga, Ont. Naylor is one of the best bats in this year’s draft class with the ability to hit for average and power.
17. Angels (Teddy): Jackson Kowar, RHP, Florida. It’s rare that a pitcher who spent two years pitching in Florida’s rotation would still have projection left. But that’s what Kowar provides. Not so much the hope of more velocity, but the chance to continue to improve. If that happens, he’s a potential monster. Even if he doesn’t make a significant jump in pro ball, you’re still getting a solid starter with a mid-90s fastball, a plus changeup and a viable breaking ball. Sign me up for that and I think the Angels, who are heavy on bats and a bit light on pitching in their system, would agree.
18. Royals (Carlos) Travis Swaggerty, OF, South Alabama. Yes, Swaggerty has been slipping and yes he hit under .300 in the Sun Belt Conference, but I’m not going to risk him falling to my next pick considering the lack of impact college bats in this class at premium positions. In my mind, he’s the best player available on the board here. I considered Trevor Larnach and really like his power potential to the opposite field, but I like Swaggerty’s center field profile and supplemental tools too much to take the corner outfield bat over him. I think there’s still more power to come with Swaggerty, and how can you not love his walk (19%) and strikeout (13%) rates? He’s also in the running for best name, so it’s a win-win pick for a number of reasons.
19. Cardinals (Kegan): Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida. I thought about taking McClanahan at No. 11 to the Orioles and at No. 15 to the Rangers. I’m surprised to see he’s still on the board here, but if I’m the Cardinals I’m running to the podium to make this pick. McClanahan is a college lefthander with a fastball in the upper 90s and a changeup and slider that project as plus pitches in the future. I know he didn’t have the greatest finish to his college season and he’s already had Tommy John surgery, but he might have some of the best raw stuff from any college pitcher in this year’s class. And I’m now picking at No. 19, so this seems obvious.
20. Twins (JJ): Ryan Weathers, LHP, Loretto (Tenn.) HS. If Weathers falls this far in the actual draft, the Twins or any other team picking him should be thrilled. Weathers has stuff, pedigree, a track record of success and he’s a prep lefty, which is a demographic that has a better track record of first round success than high school righthanders.
21. Brewers (Teddy): Trevor Larnach, OF, Oregon State. This feels like great value for Larnach, who really came on strong this spring. He’s always had raw power potential but tapped into it in a big way this year, hitting 15 home runs in the regular season, and he can drive the ball out to all fields. His profile puts a lot of pressure on his bat, but it has the potential to be a special bat.
22. Rockies (Carlos): Connor Scott, OF, Plant (Tampa) HS. I haven’t seen Scott as much as some of the other players I could have taken on the board here, but I’m really intrigued with his tools—plus-plus runner, plus arm, chance for plus outfield defense—and I’m not as concerned with his bat path as his detractors might be. Scott’s swing is reminiscent of Kyle Tucker’s and that’s worked out pretty well in his case. I’m buying into his feel for the barrel, and if things go poorly I’ve got a fallback option with a strike throwing lefty in the low 90s on the mound.
23. Yankees (Kegan): Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS, Cumming, Ga. Hankins entered the spring as the unquestioned top high school pitcher in the class. He had a shoulder injury, missed some time and his stuff wasn’t quite as good as it was last summer, but last I checked he’s still the same dude that had everyone freaking out about his potential to be the first high school righthander drafted No. 1 overall less than five months ago. I obviously don’t have access to Hankins’ medical records, but if everything comes up clean there I don’t quite understand him dropping all the way to the 25-35 range. I went safe with two college third baseman in the top 10, but I’m swinging for the fences ever since. And Hankins seems like he could be an easy home run.
24. Cubs (JJ): Triston Casas, 1B, American Heritage School, Plantation, Fla. Casas is an excellent defender at first and might be a plausible third baseman and he has some of the best power in this draft class.
25. D-backs (Teddy): Ryan Rolison, LHP, Mississippi. This is not a great year for lefthanders but Rolison may be the best of the bunch after Liberatore. I’m pretty excited to get him at No. 25. Rolison is pretty well polished for a draft-eligible sophomore and his fastball-curveball combination is above-average.
26. Red Sox (Carlos): Anthony Seigler, C, Cartersville (Ga.) HS. Seigler is another player I was fairly confident in being higher on than my counterparts. In this instance it actually paid off. More than anything, I love the way Seigler plays the game: with high energy, passion, intensity and a terrific work ethic. He hits everything from both sides of the plate with solid power, and I think he has all the tools—and the mentality—to become an above-average defensive catcher as well.
27. Nationals (Kegan): Steele Walker, OF, Oklahoma. Keeping with my high-upside selections, I thought about a couple of prep hitters here in Xavier Edwards and Joe Gray. But instead I settled on Walker, who seems like he’s becoming the forgotten man among college bats in first-round consideration. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound outfielder hit .352/.441/.606 with 13 home runs while playing in a highly competitive Big 12 Conference. He’s commonly referred to as one of the best pure hitters in the class, hit over .400 in the wood-bat Northwoods League two summers ago and was one of the best hitters with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team in 2017. Even if he’s forced to play left field in pro ball, I’m a big enough believer in his track record and his bat to feel comfortable taking Walker in the first round.
28. Astros (JJ) Joe Gray, OF, Hattiesburg (Miss.) HS. He’s not going to go here. He’s unlikely to go in the first round, but I still believe that Gray could end up as one of the better high school bats in this draft class. This is my hunch pick.
29. Indians (Teddy): Blaine Knight, RHP, Arkansas. I write the Indians’ chapter of the Prospect Handbook. So this pick is more about who I want to write up for the next few falls. And, at this point, that’s definitely Knight. He’s a BA cover boy who’s 11-0 this season and has beaten just about every SEC ace. He’s not overpowering, but he knows what he’s doing on the mound and has made a big jump in the last year to become Arkansas’ ace. The history of Razorbacks going to pro ball and continuing to improve is also encouraging (think Dallas Keuchel, James McCann, Logan Forsythe, etc.). Even if Knight doesn’t follow that trend, I think you’re getting a solid contributor. And at No. 29, I’m all for that.
30. Dodgers (Carlos): Mason Denaburg, RHP, Merritt Island (Fla.) HS. Denaburg has a real argument as the most athletic pitcher in this class. He’s a converted catcher who has only just recently started focusing on being a primary pitcher. He can do standing backflips, he could punt on a college football team if he wanted and he’s also a apparently a pretty good BMX and Motocross rider. That said, I love what he’s shown on the mound this spring. He’s been up to 96-97 mph with his fastball and showed a much-improved breaking ball that could be a plus pitch. After dealing with a biceps injury earlier in the spring, he’s returned to show promise with his changeup as well. He has all the ingredients to be a premium arm, in my mind.