Image credit: Michael Busch (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: The Dodgers felt 2B Michael Busch (1) had the best pure swing in the draft and consider him a future plus hitter. Busch controls the strike zone, has excellent hand-eye coordination and frequently barrels balls with a pure, line-drive stroke.
Best Power: 3B Brandon Lewis (4) hit some of the nation’s longest home runs in college last spring and showcased plus-plus power into his pro debut. He is a physical, strong hitter with the loose hands, bat speed and torque to project 30 or more home runs annually.
Fastest Runner: OF Justin Washington (35) is a long, lean runner who covers a lot of ground quickly with his plus speed and stride length. His speed ticks up to double-plus underway in the outfield, but he is still learning to get the most from his speed on the base paths.
Best Defensive Player: 3B Kody Hoese (1) drew middling reviews at third base at Tulane. The Dodgers, however, see Hoese as a potential plus defensive third baseman who has plus hands, reads hops well, picks the ball up off the bat and has an above-average arm.
Best Athlete: OF Joe Vranesh (15) was a standout linebacker in high school at famed De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) High. He combines the speed and strength of football player as a powerful, plus runner at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds.
Best Fastball: RHP Nick Robertson (7) sits 94-96 mph and his fastball gets on hitters quickly with his plus deception. Robertson hides the ball well behind his 6-foot-6, 265-pound frame, preventing hitters from picking the ball up until it’s too late.
Best Secondary Pitch: RHP Ryan Pepiot (3) had arguably the best changeup in the draft. The Dodgers consider it a double-plus pitch at 83-85 mph with hard, late movement in the strike zone down and in.
Best Pro Debut: RHP Mitchell Tyranski (12) struck out 40 of the 77 batters he faced in the Rookie-level Arizona and Pioneer leagues. His curveball was his swing-and-miss pitch in relief and is the best breaking ball in the Dodgers’ draft class.
Most Intriguing Background: LHP Jeff Belge (18) is legally blind in his right eye. He was skipping stones with a cousin at age nine when a stone slipped from his cousin’s hand and shattered Belge’s cornea. He needed two surgeries just to keep his right eye. Then, Belge’s eye ruptured again at 16 when a high school teammate accidentally stuck his finger in the same eye while he and Belge were wrestling, requiring another surgery.
Closest To The Majors: Hoese’s feel for hitting, above-average power, average speed and solid defense makes him a well-rounded player with few weaknesses. The Dodgers believe that will allow him to conquer the minors quickly.
Best Late-Round Pick: Belge flashed a 93-95 mph fastball and a plus curveball in relief after signing. His 6-foot-5 frame, promising lefthanded stuff and ability to overcome adversity made him a quick favorite of the Dodgers’ player development staff.
The One Who Got Away: The Dodgers were optimistic about signing RHP Andrew Baker (16) and OF/1B Trey LaFleur (21), but Baker landed at Auburn and LaFleur stuck to his Ole Miss commitment. Baker projects well as a reliever and LaFleur has a chance to be a high draft pick in three years with his loose swing, easy actions and projectable body.