Hudson Belinsky: Good afternoon, folks. Really looking forward to answering your questions today. A few thinks I’d like to mention at the top: 1) We have talked a lot about the uncertainty at the top of the class. We simply don’t know who will be picked when, which players/positions teams are targeting, etc. We have a strong inkling in some cases and we have an idea of how some of these teams value players, but it’s still too early to give a precise estimate of how the draft will play out. 2) Signability for players is something that scouts are going to gauge in the next few weeks. There are some players who have put out numbers already, but the vast majority have not. I won’t speculate on whether or not a player is signable. Feel free to ask about an individual player and scouts’ perceptions of that player, or general draft trends. I hope this is a helpful exercise for you. If I don’t get to your question and you really want more info, hit me on Twitter (@hudsonbelinsky) or shoot me an email (email@example.com). Okay, let’s roll!
DR (East Coast): Quite a sign of the times that a guy who hits 97 isn't a top 200 guy. Has Wilberto Rivera's velo ticked down? Bad secondaries?
Hudson Belinsky: Good player and good question. Rivera has not quite taken the next step after showing improved command and secondaries in the fall. Rivera has dropped down to the low 90s and doesn’t have out-pitch offspeed stuff right now. I think he still has a chance to be a good player down the line given his physical frame and the life he’s shown on his fastball; he just didn’t make the cut with us only going 200 deep at this point.
Gavin Oliver (Clemson, South Carolina): How good of a player is Kier Meredith? What would you grade his tools and would he be likely to forego College?
Hudson Belinsky: Personally, I’m a big fan of Kier Meredith. Granted I haven’t been out to see him this spring yet (unfortunately), but I saw a player last summer who made a lot of contact and ran extremely well as a 16-year-old. It seems like he’s come into a little more thump at the plate this spring, but scouts I’ve talked to still aren’t convicted in his power output and the Major League game has changed directions and placed more emphasis on power production. I think ultimately Kier will be a very good player. For me, he’s similar to Ben Revere as a high contact player with game-changing speed and the ability to impact the game defensively. He is also a high-character young man with an excellent work ethic and genuine desire to improve himself. I’m still digging as to where scouts see him landing in the draft. Clemson will get a very good player if he makes it to campus.
Marcus (New York): Which players would not surprise you getting selected significantly higher than they are ranked?
Hudson Belinsky: You’ll probably see catchers and shortstops drafted ahead of where we have them because there are so few good ones in this year’s class. Luis Campusano could be in play 20-40. Won’t be surprised to see someone take Kevin Smith relatively high. I have a hunch someone will take Trevor Rogers higher than we have him. He’s a lefty with an easy delivery and inconsistent velocity and offspeed pitches, but he has a great body and shows fastball life. He is an older player for the class, having stayed back a year to stay in the same grade as his twin sister when he was very young. I’m guessing some team will really value his upside and be okay with the risks of projecting on a 19-year-old.
Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Is Hagan Danner more likely to be picked as a right handed pitcher or as a catcher?
Hudson Belinsky: Righthanded pitcher. Danner’s curveball and command have really come along in the past couple months. He’s a legitimate prospect behind the plate, having handled elite arms on the showcase circuit. More of a strength-and-balance stroker than an explosively quick-twitch swinger at the plate; you’ll find some scouts that like that and some that find it hard to get past lack of eye-popping bat speed. Just a really good baseball player. Good makeup. Not a self-promoting type of guy, just goes out and gets the job done over and over and over again.
Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Why isn't Jeren Kendall striking out in nearly 25% of his plate appearances against college pitching a bigger red flag? He's on pace to strike out 70 times, which seems extraordinarily high for a 1st rd college bat.
Hudson Belinsky: Matt Eddy and I have been discussing him recently. (Matt’s really good with analytics and helping us find statistical comparisons for prospects.) There are very few players with his type of contact rate that can overcome it. Some statistical comparisons that Matt found were Josh Hamilton, Corey Dickerson, George Springer. All different players giving their body types and skillsets, but interesting context…. Not to make excuses for him, but I think there are some caveats to include in a discussion of Kendall’s K rate. Vanderbilt plays on a turf field; a ball hit hard with topspin is more likely to become a hit coming off of turf in college baseball where the defenders are not as strong. A ball hit with topspin can interact with the turf a little differently, with friction working in the opposite direction and actually making the ball speed up as it bounces. So if we’re aware of this information, it makes sense to swing hard and not worry as much about being caught out front and rolling over the ball—if you’re on time, you might loft the ball with authority and if you’re timing is a bit off you might hit a hard ground ball through the infield. Kendall swings hard. Maybe his approach will change a bit at the next level. It’s something that has to be projected, and that’s a scary thing to do with a first round college pick, but his defense, speed, and arm strength are all better than many of his peers. It’s a bit of a risk, no question. But sometimes you have to take risks in the draft.
John (Michigan): How close was Michigan State CF Brandon Hughes to making the top 200?
Hudson Belinsky: Sounds like a good player. Still digging on him, but he might be in the top 200 by the end of the spring. Plus runner, chance to play center field. Having a strong spring with an improved contact rate.
tim815 (Illinois): Vientos versus Vilade seems a decision that scouts will promote themselves over. Why do you see Vientos as the better of two very similar options?
Hudson Belinsky: Not sure what you mean by “promote themselves over” but I think that it’s fair to talk about them in the same range. Vilade’s a better player than the one we saw at the Area Code Games. My understanding is that he drove straight from the Connie Mack World Series after playing in the heat all summer. He was better in the fall and has had a solid spring. I see Vientos ahead of him because we (BA, that is) have a deeper history of seeing Vientos make hard contact in games. He has a projectable body and could become a real masher. Neither of them is likely to play shortstop at the highest level, though both could have profile power for a corner. Vientos is ~9 months younger than Vilade. Vientos will be 17 and 6 months at the time of the draft.
Tom (St. Louis): What are you hearing about Nick Vichio from Missouri-Baptist? He is making a lot of buzz in the St. Louis area and has been up to 96 mph.
Hudson Belinsky: I was told Vichio was 90-92 the other day, best bolt I’ve gotten from a scout is 95. Sounds like an intriguing prospect who has flashed some arm strength. Was not in consideration for the top 200…. The longer I do this, the more tired I get of those two words. “Up to ___.” A lot of players can get “up to” a certain point. I care more about where they are likely to pitch at.
Mark (United States): Is Jacksonville righty Mike Baumann going to be a starter or reliever as a pro?
Hudson Belinsky: He’ll be an intriguing project for someone to take a shot on. Bullpen seems most likely, but he has a great body, does it easy and shows flashes with his fastball and slider/cutter thing. Will need to fix some things with him to get him repeating a little better and throw better strikes.
Tom (Kirkland,WA): How likely is it that Logan Warmoth will rise into the top 10-15? Considering how SS's tend to rise on draft day and he is the best college SS available.
Hudson Belinsky: I could see it happening. Would be a bit surprised, but would not rule it out either.
BW (SF): What does Alex Faedo project out to be, a #2 SP?
Hudson Belinsky: I see him as more of #3 starter. Wouldn’t rule out him being a #2. I don’t think the differences between a #2 or a #3 are as clearly defined as fans think. Faedo probably grades out somewhere near a 55/60 FB, 60 SL, 55 CH and very good deception to righthanded hitters. How much does deception change the role of a player who grades out that way? That’s a question that has a more nuanced answer.
Cruz (Southern Cal): Saw David Banuelos (Long Beach State) crack the top 200. Any other Dirtbags following close behind him in this year's draft? A lot of good juniors all over the field this year.
Hudson Belinsky: Darren McCaughan has been the man as far as performance goes. Throws the invisible mid-80s fastball. Lucas Tancas has been hot of late and shown some intriguing power and a good frame.
Jake (Ohio): Who are the most polished top 3-5 HS arms on your list?
Hudson Belinsky: This is actually a really hard question. Hunter Greene is polished in some respects—throwing strikes with high velocity but draws criticism for breaking ball consistency. MacKenzie Gore is pretty polished in terms of FB command but will become much more physical in the next couple years. CJ Van Eyk is a strike-thrower. Logan Allen is kind of what-you-see-is-what-you get guy as an undersized lefty with advanced strike-throwing. Shane Drohan has pretty advanced offspeed stuff but isn’t the hardest thrower. Michael Mercado has had a pretty good spring performance this year.
Cameron (Norman, Oklahoma): It is pretty clear that the top two prospects this year are Hunter Green and Brendan McKay. I'm curious, but how do they stack up compared to previous years top draft prospects?
Hudson Belinsky: I don’t think that is unanimous, no. It comes down to what an individual values in a player. McKay is “safe” while Greene is high-ceiling. There are some decision-makers who say they’d rather have MacKenzie Gore or Kyle Wright or Royce Lewis. If Greene and McKay are the first two picks, I would rather Moniak-Senzel and Swanson-Bregman (just thinking in terms of what we knew at the time of the draft). Someone else might see it differently.
Jamie (Kentucky): Hey man, do think Evan White could be a 1st round pick?
Hudson Belinsky: I get the sense that could happen in the 20s, yes. He’s having a good season and he’s a good athlete.
Dan (Augusta, ME): I have seen OF Johnathan Rodriguez of the Carlos Beltran Academy mentioned by other publications as a top 100 candidate. But BA doesn't even have him in the top 200. Are you guys just not as high on him, or has he just fallen though the cracks?
Hudson Belinsky: You can safely assume we are more informed than other publications on most players. That’s not a knock on anyone else. We just have a really talented team who works really hard and is focused more exclusively on the draft right now. We’re just not as high on him, I suppose. He is very intriguing in terms of tools and his age (will be a 17-year-old draft pick). Scouts have concerns about his swing and consistency. I also wanted to wait until after the Excellence Tournament (happening right now) to get a clearer picture of some of the top Puerto Rican players. Someone else might have Wilberto Mercado, Jan Figueroa, Santis Sanchez or Jan Mercado on their list, for example. Just not in our top 200 yet.
Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Do you see Keston Hiura as a first round pick even if he has to have Tommy John surgery after the draft? Not as important for hitters, but still a major surgery.
Hudson Belinsky: I think he will be a first round pick. I don’t think it’s a lock that he’ll have TJ. He told me he might actually start throwing soon.
Matt K. (London): I'm seeing Sam Carlson's name everywhere the last couple weeks. What are your thoughts on him? and how high could he rise?
Hudson Belinsky: He’s done really well for himself in the last few weeks. There’s a false rumor around that he’s been up to 99; everyone I’ve talked to denies that adamantly. He’s pitching in the low to mid 90s with an improved slider and he has the potential for a plus changeup.
Francisco (Atlanta, GA): Any report on KSU pitcher Tony Dibrell ? Where do you see him getting drafted ?
Hudson Belinsky: He’s having a good season. Intriguing arm strength and athleticism. Sounds like his velocity has fluctuated, just talking to scouts who have seen him at different points. Was pitching at 93-94 at points earlier in the spring, bumping 96. Some days he’s come out 87-90 and ticked up later on in the outing. Has a lot of high pitch counts—133 pitches against Jacksonville on 4/21, 142 pitches against USC Upstate on 4/7. Shows a good CH at times and has some potential with breaking ball. Has a chance to be a starter but doesn’t appear to be a quick moving type of guy.
Ben (Miamisburg, OH): At what point do we begin to hear rumors of bonus demands that could result in an underslot deal up top or a higher ranked player to fall?
Hudson Belinsky: Hearing them already. Too early to tell what’s bogus and what’s legit.
Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Who's your favorite lower ranked player you think could surprise everyone and sneak into the first round? It happens every year.
Hudson Belinsky: Those are two very different questions—who I like that is ranked lower vs who will sneak into the first round. I won’t be surprised if one of the college bats goes a lot higher than they are ranked. Maybe it will be Brian Miller? Maybe Gavin Sheets? Bonuses will make things interesting.
Tom (Kirkland,WA): Will different bonus pools this year lead to picking the best player available more frequently or just cutting deals more often?
Hudson Belinsky: I think we’ll see a lot of deals cut, both underslot early and overslot later. When there isn’t a clear best player available, teams at the top have the leverage to approach players with “take-it-or-leave-it” types of offers and take the player who’s willing to take the least money, in theory.
Greg (Orange, CA): Who from the PAC 12 has raised their stock the most this spring? Can you give me one name in each- top 50/top 200/just outside the list?
Hudson Belinsky: Top 50: Luke Heimlich (David Peterson could also be the answer here). Top 200: Joey Morgan. Outside the 200: Don’t have a good answer for this. If they’ve really really raised their stock, they’d be in the top 200. Jayson Rose is a player I could see coming up a little bit. Jake Bird could move up in if his velocity comes back a bit.
Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Despite reports of a down spring, Royce Lewis is still at #5 in your rankings. Is this in indication of a belief in the tools or that reports of him being down are exaggerated?
Hudson Belinsky: I think reports of him being down might be a bit exaggerated. When people go in for one day at a time, they might not see all the things that Royce Lewis does well to impact the game. He still has all the tools. Elite runner, strong arm, flashes the power, good on-field leadership and composure.
Hudson Belinsky: That’s all for me for today, folks. Thanks for your questions. We’ll have plenty of draft content over the next few weeks. I appreciate your enthusiasm. Thanks for supporting Baseball America and have an outstanding day!