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Top High School Prospects Lacking In 2024 MLB Draft Class


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In the 2024 draft class, Konnor Griffin and Bryce Rainer are outliers.

Griffin is the top-ranked prep prospect this year. He will try to continue reshaping a pessimistic industry narrative about Mississippi high school hitters—a narrative that 2015 supplemental first-rounder Austin Riley and 2020 fifth-rounder Colt Keith are in the process of rewriting.

“He’s an elite athlete,” said one evaluator of Griffin, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound do-it-all shortstop and center fielder who’s also no joke on the mound. “Such a high ceiling. Has there been a guy that big and athletic in high school in the last 10 years? Five tools. He’s everything. It’s pretty special. His sixth tool is good, too—the makeup piece is awesome.

“That’s what they’re supposed to look like.”

BA 500 Draft Rankings

See our latest big board ahead of the 2024 draft.

Out west in the baseball hotbed of Southern California is Rainer, a physical, lefthanded-hitting shortstop and righthander. He plays for a Harvard-Westlake team that has produced as many high school first-rounders in the bonus pool era—four—as the entire state of Mississippi.

“You could walk out of (the park) with 70s on your card on both sides,” another scout said about Rainer’s two-way ability and high-end tools. “He shows ridiculous power to the back side of the field … He is fine at shortstop and has the easiest 70-grade arm I have seen.

“On the mound, he is electric … He might have the easiest arm stroke in the class. He is a non-runner, but everything else is exciting.”

Deciding between the two players could be difficult. Both rank just inside the top 10 in the class, with Griffin at No. 9 and Rainer at No. 10.

Griffin is a standout physical athlete who is young for the class—a young 18 on draft day—and possesses plus or better tools in his raw power, speed, arm strength and defensive ability at both shortstop and center field.

While Griffin’s swing isn’t the most picturesque, he does have a strong underclass track record and dominated his competition this spring while garnering rave reviews about his swing progress from scouts.

Rainer has plus raw power and is a lefthanded hitter who should definitely stick on the left side of the infield, thanks to his monster arm and reliable actions and hands. If he slides to third base he could be a plus defender at the position, but plenty of scouts think his actions, instincts and arm will be more than enough to keep him at short.

Like Griffin, Rainer has excelled this spring as a hitter while playing against superior prep competition.

Both players have legitimate fallbacks as pitchers. Both throw in the mid 90s and have more advanced control and secondaries than expected, given their renown as hitters.

For teams picking in the top half of the first round, sizing the two up and dreaming of their potential will be an interesting exercise. But things get much dicier for the high school class after Griffin and Rainer.

A Down Year For Top Talent

Back in January, there was a pervading sense of foreboding in the industry related to this year’s high school class.

Thirteen scouting directors polled in BA’s annual preseason All-America team voting were asked how they viewed the strengths and weaknesses of the 2024 class. Both the high school pitching and high school hitting groups received a grade of 40—below-average on the 20-80 scouting scale—marking the first time either prep demographic received such a low grade in the four years BA has performed this exercise.

For every prominent prep riser this spring, there has seemingly been a player who has gone backward. Heading into June, Griffin and Rainer were the only high schoolers ranked inside the top 10 who felt like locks to be drafted in the first half of the first round.

Just three preps rank inside the top 20—thank you, Slade Caldwell—and just eight appear inside the top 30.

If that number holds, it would be the fewest high school players ranked inside the top 30 during the bonus pool era, which dates back to 2012.

This dynamic has created a dim perception of the prep talent this year and has left a significant number of scouts saying that this year’s prep group is the worst they’ve ever covered. And given the MLB draft dynamics that make it easier to take a high school player later and pay him more money via an over-slot bonus, the 2024 class has a chance to join some infamous company.

In the 30-team draft era (1996-present), nine drafts featured 12 or fewer high school players selected with top 30 picks:

HS Players SelectedDraft Year
9 players2008
10 players2005, 2019
11 players2020
12 players2001, 2003, 2011, 2014, 2023

There have been seven drafts all-time with six or fewer high school players selected among the top 20 picks:

HS Players SelectedDraft Year
4 players1992
6 players1984, 1985, 1988, 2008 2014, 2023

Purely in terms of talent and current draft ranks, the 2024 class is poised not only to join the disreputable high school drafts above, but match or eclipse the all-time lows for prepsters in the first round.

Digging For Depth

While the first round is obviously important, it’s not the be-all, end-all for the quality of a draft demographic. This is especially true with the benefit of hindsight. A low-round pick has a chance to make his drafting team look smart by overperforming expectations.

In terms of depth, the 2024 high school class appears more typical—at least when viewed at a macro level by the numbers. While high school players make up just 27.5% (11 of 40) of the top 40, the group accounts for 56.7% (34 of 60) of players ranked 41-60.

Expanding even more by using the top 500 players in the class, the high school demographic not only looks more typical of recent draft classes, but there’s a case that it’s one of the more impressive.

In the last six years (2018-2023) high school players have accounted for an average of 194 players, or 38.8%, of ranked players on the BA 500. The 2024 group checks in at 204 players, or 40.8% of the top 500.

Only the incredibly deep prep class of 2018 (208, 41.6%) can boast more high schoolers ranked on the BA 500 than the 2024 group.

That could wind up being better news for college programs than MLB teams looking to infuse young, high-upside talent into their farm systems. Teams have been trending towards more college-heavy drafts for years, and the shortened 20-round draft and pruned minor league system only incentivizes fewer and fewer high school selections.

High school players have more leverage than collegians. They have the option to not sign and instead enroll in college, which means they cost more to sign, on average. This creates a steep dropoff in the percentage of high school players drafted and signed round by round.

Using the 2023 draft as an example, here are the rates of prep players signed by round:

Rounds 1-238.6%
Rounds 3-426.9%
Rounds 5-614.0%
Rounds 7-811.7%
Rounds 9-101.7%
Rounds 11-1219.3%
Rounds 13-1413.8%
Rounds 15-167.3%
Rounds 17-1813.0%
Rounds 19-2013.2%

High school players accounted for nearly one-third of all drafted and signed players in the top four rounds in 2023. After that, from rounds five to 20, the prep demographic represented just 11.6% of players drafted and signed.

Put another way, teams drafted and signed 95 high school players in 2023. Forty-five of those players put pen to paper inside the first four rounds.

With MLB teams either unable or unwilling to capitalize on the mid- and back-tier depth of the high school demographic, does the solid depth of preps carry much weight for them?

Who cares how tall the tree is if there’s no one willing to cut it down? 

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