Top 2018 MLB Draft Prospects From Louisiana
1. Zach Watson, OF, Louisiana State (BA Rank: 66)
4YR • DE-So. • 6-0 • 166 • B-R •
LSU has a history of producing speedy center fielders who turn into useful pro players. There was Mike Mahtook, Jacoby Jones (although he mainly played in the infield at LSU) and, most recently, Andrew Stevenson. Jake Fraley, the Rays’ 2016 supplemental second rounder, is also trying to join that group. Watson is the next in the lineage, as he’s a catalyst for the Tigers offense and an above-average defender in center field. Watson is a 70 runner on the 20-to-80 scouting scale, as he turns in 4.1 second times to first base as a righthanded hitter. He’s not just a slap hitter, as he has the bat speed and strong hands to drive the ball. He’ll post impressive 105-plus mph exit velocities when he connects, but his line drive stroke isn’t presently geared to lift the ball for home runs. As a hitter, Watson has a significant arm bar in his swing. He has to show he can better adjust to breaking balls. Long-term, he's projected as having a fringe-average hit tool, but with the chance to have above-average power as he matures. Watson’s profile as a righthanded-hitting outfielder is a little limiting if he can't be an everyday big leaguer, but he does enough things well enough to be a solid second to third-round pick. He’s a draft-eligible sophomore with plenty of leverage, so a team picking him will know they will likely need to pay handsomely to convince him to turn pro.
2. Zack Hess, RHP, Louisiana State (BA Rank: 87)
4YR • So. • 6-6 • 200 • R-R •
The son of Karl Hess, a long-time NCAA basketball referee, Zack Hess was considered a premium draft prospect coming out of high school, ranked No. 167 on the 2016 BA 500. He slid to the Yankees in the 35th round, however, because everyone knew he was headed to Louisiana State. Hess moved from being a mid-week starter to a dominating closer for LSU as a freshman and was outstanding in the College World Series, striking out 11 batters in seven innings over five appearances. Hess moved back to the rotation this season. The big, 6-foot-6 righthander has toned down his delivery since high school and it’s now slower and more controlled. He’s eliminated the head whack he used to have, which has helped improve his fastball command. But despite improved fringe-average control, a number of evaluators see Hess moving back to the bullpen in pro ball in part because of his fastball-slider combo is so effective in shorter stints. As a starter, he sits 92-94 and touches 97 mph. Thanks to angle and life, Hess gets swings and misses with his plus fastball and his slider is above-average as well, although it plays as more of a plus pitch out of the bullpen. He flashes an average changeup, but he doesn’t use it much against college hitters. Hess is athletic and extremely competitive. He’s a draft-eligible sophomore, so he’s likely to have a high asking price, but he’s a second to third-round talent, so some team might be willing to pay.
3. Landon Marceaux, RHP, Destrehan (La.) HS (BA Rank: 109)
HS • 6-0 • 180 • R-R •
Marceaux is a short righthander and has some of the best command in the 2018 prep class, with some scouts going as far as saying he could have 70-grade command in the future—an incredibly rare attribute for a prep pitcher. Marceaux is regularly in the low 90s with his fastball, though this spring he was a tick below that in the early parts of the season as he dealt with a minor groin injury. In addition to a four-seam fastball that has been up to 94 mph, the Louisiana State commit throws a two-seam fastball with sinking and running action that he uses to set up at-bats. He’ll then go to his four-seam fastball up in the zone, effectively climbing the latter against hitters with pinpoint control. He also has a hard-biting, 12-to-6 curveball that sits in the mid-70s and is an above-average offering, as well as a low-80s changeup that projects as a plus pitch. Fairly complete as a pitcher, the main knock on Marceaux is his size, as a 6-foot, 180-pound righthander. He’s also considered a tough sign.
4. Antoine Duplantis, OF, Louisiana State (BA Rank: 139)
4YR • 5-11 • 174 • L-L •
Duplantis wears No. 8, which means something at LSU. The number is awarded to a team leader and has been worn in the past by Mikie Mahtook and Alex Bregman, among others. Duplantis is the Tigers’ leading hitter this year thanks to some of the best hand-eye coordination in the college class, although scouts aren’t thrilled with how his hands work in his swing. He can spray line drives but has below-average power potential. Duplantis has slowed down a little during his three years at LSU, but he’s still an above-average runner who knows how to pick his spots to steal (14 of 18 on stolen base attempts). Duplantis is an above-average defender who covers plenty of ground in a corner outfield spot, but his arm is well below-average, which doesn’t really play in right field.
5. Hogan Harris, LHP, Louisiana-Lafayette (BA Rank: 148)
4YR • Jr. • 6-3 • 200 • R-L •
Seen at his best, Harris looks like a second or third-round pick with a whippy fast arm and excellent flexibility, but he’s struggled to stay healthy and maintain that stuff. The lefty sits 92-95 mph on those great days. He had that kind of stuff when he shut down Louisiana State, allowing one unearned run in four innings. But he’s missed some time with an oblique injury and has had other starts where he pitches with 4-5 mph less on his fastball. When he has good arm speed, his slider and changeup also flash above-average. He’s able to manipulate and locate his slider, which helps it play up. Harris has had plenty of success—he’s 4-1, 2.33 this year on the heels of posting a 2.66 ERA that was fifth-best in the Sun Belt Conference last season. His ability to battle with less than his best stuff bodes well for his chance to work in pro ball as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
6. Grant Witherspoon, OF, Tulane (BA Rank: 163)
4YR • Jr. • 6-3 • 203 • L-L •
Witherspoon will likely have to wait until 100 or more players are drafted before his name is called. But he has a better shot of being a big leaguer than many of those who will be taken before him. As a productive lefthanded-hitting center fielder who can play all three outfield spots, he projects as a likely fourth outfielder who provides defensive value. In center field, Witherspoon is an above-average defender thanks to good reads and routes to go with average speed. Offensively, he’s a streaky hitter, but when locked in, he can mash. His 10 home runs lead Tulane as of mid-May, when he was hitting .337/.449/.589. Both his power and hitting ability are fringe-average to average. If he gets everything out of his bat as a pro he could be a second-division regular, but with his average arm he has an excellent fallback option as a versatile reserve.
7. Will Ripoll, RHP, Curtis Christian HS, River Ridge, La. (BA Rank: 183)
HS • 6-0 • 185 • R-R •
A Louisiana State signee who is expected to make it to school, Ripoll will likely be a name to watch in three years from now, although his present stuff is pretty solid as well. He led Curtis Christian to its second consecutive Louisiana High School Athletic Association Division I title by throwing a 13-strikeout complete game in the championship-clinching victory. Ripoll sat 89-91 mph this spring, showing advanced control and command for his age. He spots both his fastball and his 77-80 mph curveball, which is an average offering.
8. Nick Lee, RHP, Louisiana-Lafayette (BA Rank: 184)
4YR • Jr. • 6-5 • 190 • R-R •
Lee began the season as the Ragin’ Cajuns’ Saturday starter, but he struggled and was eventually slid back into the bullpen. He embraced the role, which is more likely the one he will fill in pro ball as well. The 6-foot-5, 190-pound righthander has an above-average 92-96 mph fastball, an above-average changeup and a below-average slider. His rock-and-fire delivery involves some effort, as he yanks his head through his delivery, but his arm is fast and he throws just enough strikes with his fringe-average control to make it all work.
9. C.J. Willis, C, Ruston (La.) HS (BA Rank: 195)
HS • 6-4 • 185 • L-R •
Evaluators have only gotten a partial look at Willis’ tools this spring as he’s been limited by a shoulder injury. But that hasn’t kept them from watching the Louisiana State signee show plus power with a swing that gives him a chance to be a well-rounded hitter. It’s a power-over-hit profile, but his hit tool could be fringe-average. Willis’ eventual defensive home is more up in the air. He’s a below-average runner whose best fit should be catcher. When healthy, he’s shown a plus arm. His receiving is less impressive than his arm, but he’s a solid athlete (he was also his high school’s quarterback) who has shown a willingness to work at it. Third base is also an option thanks to his arm and he has the power to even handle a move to a corner outfield spot.
10. Hunter Feduccia, C, Louisiana State (BA Rank: 330)
4YR • Jr. • 6-2 • 183 • L-R •
Scouts in Louisiana haven’t gotten a chance to see everything Feduccia can do this spring, even though he’s been a fixture in the middle of Louisiana State’s lineup and behind the plate. Feduccia broke his left hand right before the season began and then broke his right hand in mid-April. He barely missed time with either injury, but the pair of fractures have affected his hitting as he was hitting .248/.386/.401 at the end of the regular season. Feduccia has a solid batting eye and gap-to-gap power when he’s healthy. Defensively, Feduccia has an average arm and the tools to be an average receiver. He’s got a chance to be a well-rounded catching prospect, but while the injuries this season have proven his toughness, they haven’t given scouts a chance to fully evaluate his tools.
11. Basiel Williams, OF, Ponchatoula HS, Tangipahoa Parish, La. (BA Rank: 342)
HS • 6-3 • 180 • B-R •
It’s all future projection with Williams, who is a tooled-up, switch-hitting outfielder with plus speed and developing power. He’s been hurt this spring, however, and he hasn’t been great on the field, leaving a lot of guesswork for teams as to what he’ll become in the future. Williams showed some flashes over the summer showcase circuit, including a game during the East Coast Pro showcase when he tripled from the left side off a 91 mph fastball from Lineras Torres Jr. Unfortunately, scouts also had poor looks at Williams over the summer, including early at Perfect Game’s National Showcase, where Williams looked out of sync defensively with poor reads in the outfield and was outmatched at the plate. He has arm strength, but he needs to iron out his mechanics and footwork to get the most out of it. Williams feels like a player who could benefit from going to Mississippi State, getting more reps and adding strength before going to pro ball.
12. Destin Dotson, LHP, Scotlandville HS, Baton Rouge (BA Rank: 352)
HS • 6-7 • 225 • L-L •
Few scouts say they expect Dotson to sign this year, but few will also be surprised if he develops over the next few years at Tulane. Dotson is only 17, young for the draft class, and he’s a lanky 6-foot-6. He can touch 93-94 mph right now, but he generally sits 89-91 mph. His breaking ball is generally a well-below average spinner, but every now and then he will snap off a good one that shows he has some feel for spinning a quality breaking ball. Dotson is all about projection and potential right now, but it wouldn’t be shocking if his fastball and breaking ball are two grades better in a few years.
13. Logan Stoelke, RHP, Louisiana-Lafayette (BA Rank: 416)
4YR • Sr. • 6-3 • 185 • R-R •
Stoelke is a senior who will both help a team save money to spend elsewhere but also provide legitimate talent. He’s an excellent athlete who was the team’s Opening Day starter in center field as a junior before shifting to pitching full time this s[romg. He barely got onto the mound until this season, but this year he’s gone 4-0, 2.97 with 36 strikeouts in 33.1 innings. He works with an above-average 92-95 mph fastball and an average changeup. He also mixes in a fringy breaking ball at times. Stoelke has missed a little time this year with shoulder and groin injuries, but he has a very fresh arm because he’s thrown just 50 innings in four years of college.
14. Brandon Davis, SS, Curtis Christian HS, New Orleans (BA Rank: 446)
HS • 5-11 • 165 • R-R •
Davis will likely slip through the draft as he’s committed to Tennessee to play football and baseball, but he’s got the tools and some understanding of hitting to develop into a solid middle infielder who is an excellent athlete. Davis is a potential Southeastern Conference cornerback, so his athleticism and plus speed are easily apparent. He has solid bat-to-ball skills but needs to add strength.
15. Cam Sanders, RHP, Louisiana State (BA Rank: 475)
4YR • Jr. • 6-2 • 170 • R-R •
The son of big leaguer Scott Sanders and former softball All-American Linda Sanders, Cam was an 18th-round pick of the Padres last season out of Northwest Florida JC. He has some of the best stuff on the LSU staff, but his inconsistent control has kept him from having sustained success this year—he was 1-0, 6.59 at the end of the SEC tournament. Sanders walked 7.2 batters per nine innings this season and his performance in SEC games was even worse (11.12 ERA, 10 BB/9). Sanders did get better as the season wrapped up, as he started locating his 92-96 mph fastball and sharp spike-curve more consistently.
16. Bryan Warzek, LHP, New Orleans (BA Rank: 488)
4YR • Jr. • 6-0 • 190 • L-L •
Warzek has been one of the most dominating pitchers in the Southland Conference this year. His 124 strikeouts ranked first in the Southland and 11th in Division I as of May 26. Scouts generally believe that Warzek’s pro future will end up being in the bullpen. His delivery has some effort to it and he’s a 6-foot lefty who works hard to generate 91-95 mph fastballs. He has a breaking ball that flashes above-average at its best, but has too much inconsistency to be deemed a reliable pitch just yet.
17. Lloyd Nash, CF, St. Charles Catholic HS, Laplace, La. (BA Rank: N/A)
HS • Sr • 6-1 • 185 • L-L •
An athletic outfielder who has signed to play quarterback at Nichols State, Nash has enough athleticism and a solid swing that could entice a team to take a chance on his significant tools.
18. Renny Tolentino, RHP, Louisiana State-Shreveport (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Sr.
The senior struck out 78 in only 65 innings last year and held hitters to a .196 average against. A short (6-foot) righthander with a quick, short arm action, Tolentino uses a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a potentially above-average slider to attack hitters. (JJ)
19. Gavin Dugas, SS/OF, Houma (La.) Christian HS (BA Rank: N/A)
20. Daniel Lahare, OF, Louisiana-Lafayette (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Jr.
21. Gunner Leger, LHP, Louisiana-Lafayette (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Sr. • 6-3 • 200 • L-L •
The son of Pirates minor leaguer Tim Leger, Gunnar was expected to be a solid senior sign this year coming off of a 10-2, 1.97 junior season but he blew out his elbow and did not pitch. He could return next year as a redshirt senior.
22. Jake Slaughter, SS/3B, Louisiana State (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • DE-So. • • • - •
Slaughter is a solid defender with some power potential.
23. Jacob Stracner, OF, McNeese State (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Jr.
24. Josh Green, RHP, Southeastern Louisiana (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Sr.
25. Caleb Gilbert, RHP, Louisiana State (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Jr. • 6-2 • 179 • R-R •
26. Chris Zapata, C, Centenary (La.) (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Sr.
Zapata hit .391/.455/.732 with 12 home runs last year. His bat is ahead of his glove but he has a chance to be a late-round pick.
27. Drew Avans, OF, Southeastern Louisiana (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Sr. • 5-10 • 198 • L-L •
Avans hit .330/.462/.568 with more walks than strikeouts, making him a potential senior sign.
. Brandon Nowak, LHP, Louisiana State (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Jr.
. Austin Bradford, RHP, Louisiana State-Eunice JC (BA Rank: N/A)
. Cameron Horton, 1B, Louisiana State-Eunice JC (BA Rank: N/A)
. Jacob Richard, CF, Louisiana State-Eunice JC (BA Rank: N/A)
JC • So.
. Handsome Monica, C, Louisiana-Lafayette (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Sr. • • • - •