Image credit: Ethan Small (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 Brewers took C Thomas Dillard (5) in the middle of Day 2 and signed him for $397,500 thanks to a potent, switch-hitting bat. The Mississippi product has impressive on-base skills and some power in the tank, though he hit .249/.391/.407 in his pro debut in the Arizona and Midwest leagues.
Best Power Hitter: The Brewers drafted a pair of physical hitters on Day 3. OF Andre Nnebe (28) is 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, while 1B Kevin Hardin (33) is 6-foot-5, 245 pounds. Both have plenty of raw power in the tank but will need to improve their ability to tap into that juice in games.
Fastest Runner: SS David Hamilton (8) missed the entire season at Texas due to a ruptured Achilles tendon, but prior to the injury he was a plus runner, stealing 31 bases as a sophomore. Hopefully he can make a full recovery, but we’ll have to reevaluate once he gets back on the field. OFs Terence Doston (22) and Michael Wilson (16) would be the fastest runners outside of Hamilton.
Best Defensive Player: Hamilton’s speed and athleticism allowed him to play a strong shortstop in college, with a quick first step and sure hands that led scouts to believe he can stick at the position long term.
Best Athlete: Wilson’s athleticism and speed should allow him to play all three outfield positions. Nnebe is athletic for his size, though he fills more of a corner profile.
Best Fastball: LHP Antoine Kelly (2) had some of the best velocity from a southpaw in the 2019 draft class with a fastball that sits 93-95 mph and touches 97 mph. Kelly throws with an easy delivery and arm action, and most scouts figure he will touch 100 mph at some point in the future.
Best Secondary Pitch: LHP Ethan Small (1) doesn’t have huge pure stuff, but he has excellent command and is able to land a slurve-like breaking ball in any count. The pitch plays up thanks to his ability to mix and spot his entire arsenal, and the fact that he hides the ball well in his delivery.
Best Pro Debut: Small has the exact skills you would assume translate quickly to the low minors, and that was the case in his pro debut. He threw 21 innings between the Arizona and Midwest leagues, posting a 0.86 ERA while striking out 36 batters and walking just four.
Most Intriguing Background: Kelly bet on himself after the Padres selected him in the 13th round of the 2018 draft thanks to his natural velocity. He didn’t sign and opted for the junior college route at Wabash Valley (Ill.) JC, which turned into a $1,025,100 signing bonus with the Brewers a year later.
Closest To The Majors: Small’s polished command of a three-pitch arsenal should allow him to move quickly through the minors in a starting role.
Best Late-Round Pick: The Brewers were thrilled to get Nnebe in the 28th round, and he helped pay off a $190,000 signing bonus by hitting .302/.394/.496 with four home runs and nine doubles in 34 games in the Arizona League.
The One Who Got Away: The Brewers drafted SS Jose Torres (24) on Day 3, but the slick-fielding shortstop opted to go to North Carolina State, where he has a chance to provide an immediate impact for the Wolfpack and will be a draft-eligible sophomore in 2021.