BA 500 Analysis
The BA 500 is an attempt to capture the industry’s consensus on the talent of a deep 2018 class—not to predict where players will be selected on June 4-6. The list was compiled in consultation with major league scouts, front office executives, scouting directors, college coaches and other professional evaluators. JJ Cooper, Teddy Cahill, Kyle Glaser, Kegan Lowe, Bill Mitchell and Carlos Collazo contributed to the reporting.
With the 2018 Draft set to kick off in 30 days, the first installment of the BA 500 has arrived. While many of the players listed below will figure to remain in the same spots they are currently in over the next month, Baseball America staff will continue to report on the draft in the remaining weeks as injuries and pop-up players develop and more information becomes available.
Auburn righthander Casey Mize continues to sit in the top spot and has established himself as the clear No. 1 player in the 2018 class, pitching to an 8-2, 2.40 record through his first 11 starts and 75 innings in the SEC. After leading the country in strikeout-to-walk ratio last season (12.11), Mize has fanned 104 batters and walked just seven (14.86 K/BB) this spring, giving him a strong argument as having the best control and stuff of any pitcher in the 2018 class. You can read a full scouting report of Mize in our rankings capsule for a full breakdown on his arsenal.
As expected before the season, many college players have risen up boards as the weeks have progressed, with six collegiate prospects rounding out the top 10 after Mize, along with a trio of prep pitchers. The biggest move in our current top 10 is the presence of Orange (Calif.) Lutheran High righthander Cole Winn, who claims the No. 10 spot and jumps ahead of Santiago (Corona, Calif.) High shortstop Brice Turang for the first time since last summer when BA began publishing early 2018 draft rankings.
Winn doesn’t have the stuff, projection or athleticism that some of other high school arms around him possess, but he’s been arguably the most consistent high school arm in a deep class at the position, regularly improving from start to start and giving area scouts and crosscheckers alike little reason to nitpick him.
Across the country, many high schools are beginning to enter the playoffs—and some schools are already done with their seasons entirely—giving scouts just a few final looks as teams start to hold preliminary draft meetings to determine which players will be priorities in the final month before the draft. This weekend, for instance, will be important for many players in the Georgia area as several top prospects who have been eliminated in playoffs will gather for a last-minute showcase including Forsyth Central (Cumming, Ga.) High righthander Ethan Hankins.
After missing several weeks this season with a shoulder injury, Hankins has returned to the mound and has pitched well in recent weeks. His draft status will likely be more volatile than many players in the first round given his elite performance last summer and his standing prior to injury. A strong showing in front of evaluators Sunday could help him climb boards. Meanwhile, in the Georgia playoffs, righthanders Kumar Rocker and Cole Wilcox faced off this Thursday in front of a packed crowd of scouts, making this week an important one for the strong Peachtree State pitching class.
The next few weeks will also be critical for players in the north, as teams have had a more difficult time than usual getting looks at players thanks to the weather. A number of players have the talent to go in the first round, including outfielders Jarred Kelenic and Nick Schnell—who recently hit three home runs in one game in front of a large group of scouts—and righthanders Mike Vasil and Lineras Torres. Getting as many looks as possible with those players in the remaining weeks will help teams solidify where exactly they will fit on draft boards.
In general, though, the college players will have the most opportunity to rise late in the season, with conference tournaments beginning in several weeks, which will draw a significant number of higher-level decision makers just a few weeks before June 4.
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Looking at the BA 500 from a state level, one of the most obvious demographic notes is that California is significantly down in regards to impact players in the class. After an incredibly impressive 2017 class that saw 19 prospects selected among the top 100 picks, there are only 11 players ranked among the top 100 in California, with almost half (5) of those players coming from the northern part of the state.
On depth however, California still has more players than any other state or region (including Canada and Puerto Rico) in the BA 500, with 71 players. That narrowly edges out Florida, which has 67 players ranked among the BA 500. Texas comes in third with 43, while Georgia fields 28 players among the top 500.
When it comes to Top 5 Round talent however, the country stacks up differently. This year the first five rounds—including compensation picks and two supplemental rounds after the first and second rounds—goes through 164 picks. Below are how the top states stack up with players who, at this point, are seen as Top 5 Round talents:
- Florida: 24
- Texas: 22
- California: 16
- Georgia: 9
- Arizona: 7
- North Carolina: 7
- Louisiana: 6
- Mississippi: 6
One of the notable developments in the last few weeks has been the progression of junior college, Division II and Division III arms. Righthanders Trey Riley (Logan (Ill.) JC), Josiah Gray (Le Moyne (N.Y.)) and Hugh Smith (Whitworth (Wash.)) and lefthander Aaron Ashby (Crowder (Mo.) JC) all fall around the third round range, giving the class a number of exciting pitchers from smaller schools. The juco class as a whole isn’t as strong as 2017—when Brendon Little and Nate Pearson both went in the first round—but there continues to be a number of options for teams on day two.