Image credit: Ryan Jensen (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
Every year at the conclusion of the regular season, Baseball America revisits each teams’ most recent draft class. Each class has its no-doubt, high-profile names to keep an eye on, but our annual draft report cards highlight the best tools, best debuts, late-round steals and more. Here are the names you need to know from every organization’s 2019 draft.
Best Pure Hitter: This category goes to UCLA product 2B Chase Strumpf (2). The Cubs were drawn to Strumpf for the maturity in his at-bats, his all-fields approach and the sneaky power he produces. He displayed all of those traits in his first pro season, spent predominantly at short-season Eugene.
Best Power: Alabama prep C Ethan Hearn (6) garnered the third-largest bonus in the Cubs’ 2019 draft class on the strength of his bountiful raw juice. His muscular frame gives him the potential for plus power once he reaches the big leagues.
Fastest Runner: Illinois OF Zac Taylor (25) is a 70-grade runner on the 20-to-80 scouting scale and swiped 12 bases in his pro debut, which took him from the Rookie-level Arizona League all the way to high Class A Myrtle Beach.
Best Defensive Player: This category goes to Hearn as well. In addition to his power, Hearn showed the Cubs athleticism, quick feet and small-space movement as an amateur and again in his pro debut. He also showed some pop times of less than 2.0 seconds.
Best Athlete: Taylor has the speed and strength to show well in an NFL combine. He hits baseballs hard and is a near-elite runner. Those traits should benefit him at the plate and in the field.
Best Fastball: Fresno State RHP Ryan Jensen (1) throws four- and two-seam fastballs that each averaged 96 mph in his pro debut, which was spent with short-season Eugene. The pitches also play well on TrackMan for their carry and rise or sink, depending on the version.
Best Secondary Pitch: Southern California RHP Chris Clarke (4) throws a curveball that amateur scouts rated as a potential 70-grade pitch on the 20-to-80 scouting scale.
Best Pro Debut: RHP Michael McAvene (3) was a reliever at Louisville but was used as a starter at short-season Eugene and struck out nearly 41 percent of the hitters he faced.
Most Intriguing Background: The Cubs drafted two players with big league bloodlines. Texas 3B Ryan Reynolds (14) is the son of former All-Star righthander Shane Reynolds, and Clemson INF Grayson Byrd (24) is the son of 14-year major leaguer Paul Byrd.
Closest To The Majors: Jensen or McAvene could reach the majors quickly if moved to the bullpen, but both are starters at the moment.
Best Late-Round Pick: Taylor fits the bill here, with an intriguing mix of tools and athleticism that the Cubs were happy to select in the 25th round.
The One Who Got Away: It’s very rare for a team to draft a player in the top 10 rounds and then fail to sign him, but that’s exactly what happened with C Wyatt Hendrie (10), an athletic backstop with good defensive ability and some contact skills. Hendrie was one of just two players in the 2019 draft to be selected among the top 10 rounds and not sign. RHP Brandon Sproat (Rangers, 7th round) was the other.