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Hunter Greene Stands Atop High School Top 100

SEE ALSO: High School Top 100 List

The 2017 draft is still more than six months away, meaning that there’s plenty of time for players to change and for their standing in the class to change as a result. Still, halfway through this year’s draft process, the group of players at the top has begun to take shape. What follows is a preseason breakdown of the 2017 high school class. We’ll devote more attention to the top of the class and nitpick some of the top players, with the acknowledgement that their positives far outweigh their negatives.

At the top of the class is Hunter Greene, a unique two-way talent who headlines a loaded year in Southern California. If you’re interested in the human interest side of Greene, read this.

Greene, a UCLA signee, is more polished as a pitcher. The righthander has shown premium fastball velocity, reaching as high as 98 mph. The pitch also shows late life, exploding through the strike zone with late finish that makes Greene almost impossible to square up. Greene’s combination of fastball velocity and movement could allow him to both miss bats and generate poor contact.

His offspeed arsenal shows significant promise as well. Greene throws a hard breaking ball that has reached into the low 80s. At its best, Greene’s slider plays as a plus pitch, with hard and late break with 11-to-5 or 10-to-4 shape and no clear breaking point. At other times, however, his slider will back up and lack its powerful sweep. Green has shown flashes with his mid-80s changeup, which shows fade and tumble and projects as at least an average pitch.

Greene’s athleticism on the mound earns legendary comparisons. His high-waisted body evokes Dwight Gooden comparisons. Greene maintains balance after a high knee lift and explosive stride out front. He throws from a slightly lower three-quarters arm slot and repeats his delivery well. He’ll need to continue building consistency as he progresses toward the majors, but his ceiling on the mound is as high as any pitcher in the 2017 class, high school or college.

While Greene is further along as a pitcher, he also has a high ceiling as a position player. Greene is a below-average runner, but takes long, graceful strides in the infield, and his plus-plus arm strength plays at shortstop. At the plate, he shows plus bat speed and a compact stroke. He has a leg kick that serves as more of a timing mechanism than a functional part of his swing, and he’ll sometimes fail to sync everything up. He has excellent pure hands, though, and has shown the ability make hard contact against quality pitching, even when he’s caught out front and not quite barreling the ball with the sweet spot of the bat.

Greene showed an opposite-field oriented approach as a rising senior, but has the ability to turn on fastballs left inside. Greene has plus-plus raw power and can put on a show in a home run derby. Next spring, Greene will look to prove that he has the natural timing and hitability to allow his power to play, and teams picking at the top will carefully consider him as both a shortstop and a righthanded pitcher.

From a draft perspective, Greene has some unique attributes in his favor. He’ll be 17 on draft day, and won’t turn 18 until August, making him one of the youngest prospects in the class. He also has a long track record. The first time the Baseball America staff saw Greene, he was just 15 years old playing in the 2015 Tournament of Stars, and in his first at-bat he hit a hard ground ball through the middle of the infield for a single off of righthander Ian Anderson, who would go on to be the first pitcher drafted in 2016. In the spring of his junior year, Greene also played against Yankees 2016 first-round pick Blake Rutherford. There are a lot of positive attributes going for Greene, but no high school righthanded pitcher has ever been selected first overall.

Behind Greene, Royce Lewis received significant consideration for the No. 1 spot in these rankings. Lewis has a fluid righthanded swing and marries explosiveness with grace in everything he does. He’s a plus-plus runner capable of making highlight reel plays in center field, but he has also shown some potential in the infield, where his plus arm strength profiles well at third base. Lewis, a UC Irvine recruit, also shows plus raw power, though his swing features some early length, and his batted ball profile includes a high ground ball rate. Lewis has the loose wrists to cover the plate well, but his high hand set can make it difficult for him to consistently loft the ball.

Jordon Adell, who is committed to Louisville, has the pure physical tools to play his way to the top of the class. After a shaky start to his summer, Adell has made steady progress offensively, and he’s traded rawness for refinement as he’s continued to play throughout the fall.

The team that takes Adell will have to look past his poor start and believe in his adjustments and athleticism. His hit tool has made undeniable progress since the Tournament of Stars in late June. Adell previously started from a wide, open stance and had a tendency to lunge at pitches away. He closed off his front side in July, and looked significantly better at the Metropolitan Baseball Classic and the Under Armour All-America Game. He still showed he has work to do during the East Coast Pro showcase to kick off August, but squared the ball up consistently at the Area Code Games.

While cutting down on the moving parts in his swing, Adell has maintained his power, and he has arguably the best bat speed in the class, with rapid acceleration. While Lewis and Adell are similar in terms of pure raw power and raw speed, Adell may have a slight edge in terms of usable power, while Lewis has a better history of making contact.

Adell is a top-of-the-scale runner in the 60-yard dash, but his speed plays closer to 60 than it does 80 in games, with his run times typically in the 4.2 to 4.3-second range, and often slower than that because of his big swings.

Adell’s progress is not limited to the batter’s box; this fall he has also shown the potential for two plus pitches in his fastball and power curveball. Those who believe in Adell see him as a position player who is just scratching the surface due to his two-way background. He’s essentially a lock to be drafted as a position player, but he has legitimate upside and could be a first-day draft talent as a pitcher.

The top-ranked high school pitcher is Florida State signee D.L. Hall, a lefthander who has shown a rare blend of athleticism and present stuff. His fastball consistently plays in the low to mid-90s, and his hard 1-to-7 curveball also projects as a plus pitch. Hall’s changeup has shown enough promise to comfortably grade out as an average third weapon.

While Hall sits atop the pitching class at present, the race is far from over. Righthander Hans Crouse, a Southern California recruit, has the arm speed, size, and athleticism to flirt with triple-digits next spring, and he’s coming off a successful run as a starter for USA Baseball’s 18U National team. Crouse’s high-effort mechanics will draw scrutiny in the spring, and the biggest question evaluators will have will be whether or not Crouse can command the ball well enough to stick as a starter.

The Next Five

Jacob Heatherly hasn’t quite shown the velocity that Hall or Crouse have, but he has starter traits, with an athletic lower half and a physical upper half. Heatherly’s fastball has reached 94 mph, and he’s shown promising ability to spin the ball, with the firmer of his two breaking balls showing plus potential.

Blayne Enlow could end up as one of the hardest throwers of any player in this class. He has a loose, fluid arm action and highly-projectable pitcher’s body. Enlow’s fastball already works in the low 90s. His curveball is arguably the best in the class, with late vertical finish and low 80s velocity.

Garrett Mitchell is a lefthanded hitter who makes consistent hard contact. Mitchell is another plus-plus runner in this class, and he profiles to hit for power as his game matures, whether that’s in the form of home runs or hard doubles.

Trevor Rogers has the size and athleticism to push himself to the top of this class. He is a little bit old for the class, having been held back along with his twin sister early in his elementary education.

Nick Storz has a Rob Gronkowski-esque build that gives him the foundation to develop into a innings-eater, and the stuff to profile in the middle of a rotation. His fastball can work in the mid-90s and it has consistently induced poor contact, with hitters struggling to backspin his fastball. Storz also shows a tight, slurvy breaking ball. As he learns to stay back and stay more balanced over the rubber, Storz figures to gain command and consistency.

Class Highlights

There’s also a deep well of outfielders in this class, of varying sorts of tools and skills. Cole Brannen is an exciting all-around talent. He’s a plus-plus runner and generates surprising power from a compact lefthanded swing. Heliot Ramos has a fluid swing with some explosion to it, but he has not quite shown the best approach or pitch selection for his skill set. Cole TurneyConner Uselton and Drew Waters also fit into this year’s highly tooled outfield group. Others fitting in this group (but to lesser extents) include A.J. GardnerChristian RobinsonZach DanielsBaron Radcliff and Leugim Castillo.

Calvin MitchellJacob Pearson and Daniel Cabrera are among better pure hitters in the entire class, though there are questions about their profiles at the highest level. How their non-hit tools progress in the spring could play a key role in their draft stocks this spring. Pearson has the most straightline speed of this trio.

Quentin Holmes and Kier Meredith both possess game-changing speed and are elite defenders in center field. Holmes has a little more thump and power projection than Meredith, but both have high floors as up-the-middle defenders with natural contact ability.

The best defensive shortstop in this year’s class is diminutive San Diego native Nick Allen. With his listed 5-foot-8, 155-pound frame, the Southern California commit has plus foot speed and plus arm strength. Allen runs well and makes consistent contact at the plate, but there are questions about how much power he will hit for at the highest level, as well as concerns about how his body type will hold up on an everyday, 162-game schedule.

Adam Hall has shown flashes of loud tools. He has a knack for making hard contact and driving the ball with authority against quality pitching. Hall runs well under way and has shown solid-average arm strength, though he hasn’t always exhibited those tools. Some evaluators doubt his ability to play shortstop, which is what keeps him from placing higher in this initial ranking. But he does have the tools to potentially hit for both average and power.

Floridians Mark Vientos, Brady McConnell and Austin Martin are among the most intriguing players in this class as well. Vientos is extremely young for the class, and showed consistent hard-hit ability and bat speed throughout the showcase process. He’s unlikely to stick at shortstop but profiles well at third.

Early in the summer, McConnell looked like he might belong in the group at the top of this class as a quick-twitch shortstop prospect. He’s wiry and has excellent bat speed, giving him promising projection, but the advanced approach he showed early in the summer didn’t seem to hold up later in the summer. He flashes tools and could push himself back up with a strong spring.

Martin opened eyes with a strong fall showing. He has natural instincts at shortstop, with a quick first step and an advanced internal clock. Martin is also a plus runner. He has some fluidity to his swing and his frame comes with some natural leverage, so there’s some foundation for offensive projection.

One deficiency of this year’s class is the prep catching. M.J. Melendez is the top prospect at this point. His flexible lower half and electric throwing arm give him a foundation to develop into an elite catcher, though the finer points of his receiving will need continued work. He has also shown the potential for average power and he has some aptitude in the box. The high school catching demographic has typically been unfulfilling, but Melendez’s athleticism and tools could allow him to be an exception to that maxim.

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