MLB Draft Buzz: Northeast Prospects Who Could Go In The Top 50 Picks
The Northeast is loaded with talent this year. With some high schools in the region having just started their seasons, here are updated reports on some of the Northeast players with a chance to go in the top 50 overall picks in the draft, based on a mix of in-person looks and conversations with scouts who have been tracking these players.
RELATED: See our updated MLB Mock Draft
Joshua Baez, OF, Massachusetts
I've written about Baez before, having seen nearly all of his games this season. He's a physical, explosive athlete who is still 17, with plus raw power that has a chance to be a 70 tool. He has a plus-plus arm, with the size of a corner outfielder at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds but a tick above-average speed and good instincts in center field. The biggest risk factor with Baez is his swing and miss, but he has generally done a good job of managing his at-bats from watching him last summer, over the fall and again this spring.
In the last few games, he got away from that approach. In a game on Friday, Baez was fighting his timing as his swing got out of sync and disconnected, with his upper and lower body not working together in proper sequence. He still went 1-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout, getting caught out front but still strong enough to muscle the ball up the middle for a single. His strikeout had a worse result but was arguably a better at-bat, as he took two borderline pitches for called strikes, including strike three, but both were good takes and could have easily resulted in a walk.
In a doubleheader the next day, Baez started off with a rough strikeout. It started with a breaking ball away where he couldn't check his swing, a fastball off the plate that he swung through, an 0-2 breaking ball in the dirt he laid off of followed by a fastball away that he chased for strike three. That's not in line with the approach Baez has otherwise shown this spring, but he was able to adjust and lock back in, finishing the day 3-for-6 with two home runs and three walks (one intentional). The pitching wasn't anything close to what Baez would see in pro ball or in the SEC if he went to Vanderbilt, where he's committed, but even with his timing off, Baez was able to regroup, put together quality at-bats the rest of the way and show off his power.
Baez hit those home runs with a prominent crew of upper-level Braves scouting brass in attendance. The Braves pick at No. 24 overall, and that's around the range Baez could go on draft day.
Chase Petty, RHP, New Jersey
A large scouting contingent attended Petty's first regular season start, where in seven innings he allowed two runs on one hit with three walks, a hit batsman and 13 strikeouts. At 6 feet, 185 pounds, Petty is an athletic righthander whose pure stuff is electric, sitting in the mid-to-upper 90s with a fastball that has reached 102 mph. His hard slider flashes plus and arguably better at times, and he did a solid job of landing his slider in the zone. Petty doesn't have much ease to his operation, with effort in a high-tempo delivery and erratic fastball control, including hitting one guy in the head and another who he drilled but the umpire ruled it a swinging strikeout. When Lance McCullers Jr. was a high school senior, he ranked as the No. 13 player in the draft before he signed with the Astros for $2.5 million as a supplemental first-round pick (No. 41 overall) in 2012. If you go back and read McCullers' draft report, it has a lot of similarities to Petty's; from the size, the triple-digits fastball and the power slider to the concerns about mechanics and control, all the way to the Florida commitment. The risks with Petty (and the general riskiness of high school righthanders) will be a factor, but if Petty stays healthy and is able to corral his stuff in the strike zone, his upside is obvious and exciting.
Matt Mikulsi, LHP, Fordham
Mikulski didn't have his best stuff in his last start on Saturday, and he still struck out 15 batters in seven innings with two hits and one run allowed. Even without his secondary stuff at its sharpest and his velocity a touch down from some of his other starts, Mikulski attacked St. Joseph's hitters with a fastball-heavy approach, generating plenty of empty swings when he pitched up in the zone. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Mikulski shortened his arm stroke heading into his senior season and his stuff has spiked as well. He pitches now at 93-96 mph, has reached the upper 90s and his stuff plays up because of the deception in his delivery. Mikulski hides the ball behind his chest, then the ball quickly pops out from behind his ear with his short arm action, leading hitters to react to his 93s like they're 95 mph. His changeup isn't especially lively, but he does an excellent job of executing it down in the zone, and the difficulty hitters have in picking up the ball out of his hand while having to be ready for a mid-90s fastball helps his changeup play up to get a lot of swing and miss and out front, off-balance swings. He adds in a solid slider and a get-me-over curveball as an early-count pitch, a repertoire that has allowed him to post an ERA of 0.92 with a 91-19 K-BB mark in 48.2 innings, good for a 16.8 K/9. After going unselected in last year's five-round draft, Mikulski is now pushing his way into potential top two rounds territory.
Anthony Solometo, LHP, New Jersey
A 6-foot-2, 210-pound North Carolina commit, Solometo made his first start of the year on Friday, when he threw a complete game with seven scoreless innings, no walks and 11 strikeouts, coming within one out of a no-hitter. He pitched at 88-92 mph, not quite at where he was when fully ramped up last summer with a peak of 96 mph, but Solometo was in total control. For a pitcher with funky mechanics, a long arm swing and so many moving parts in his delivery that he needs to sync up, Solometo showed remarkable command. He dotted his fastball on the corners of the plate, especially to his arm side. He attacked hitters and consistently got ahead of them, rarely making a mistake with his fastball location. Solometo was also able to consistently execute his above-average slider down in the zone, firing it to the back foot of a righthanded hitter when he wanted to mix it up or get a swing and miss. He also looked athletic fielding his position getting off the mound to field a weak tapper groundball. Solometo currently ranks as the No. 55 prospect on the BA draft rankings and could go in the top two rounds.