Top Kentucky 2019 MLB Draft Prospects
State List Talent Ranking: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
(Stars are listed on a 1 to 5 scale relative to what the state typically produces, with 1 being the weakest)
Thompson ranked No. 308 on the 2016 BA 500, but his draft ranking was dinged by a sore shoulder that limited him as a high school junior. He turned down a significant signing bonus when the Rays drafted him in the 11th round, instead opting to head to Kentucky. He made an immediate impact for the Wildcats, starting during the midweek and relieving on the weekends. He beat Indiana in an NCAA regional and ranked 26th in the country with 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings as a freshman, but his sophomore season was not as smooth. He was working as Kentucky’s Saturday starter when he had to sit out seven starts while nursing a sore elbow. Thompson returned to pitch in early May and also pitched during the summer in both the Cape Cod League and for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. This spring, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the Southeastern Conference. He struck out nine or more hitters in nine of his first 11 starts this season, including 13 strikeouts in a complete-game shutout against Georgia. Thompson has one of the best swing-and-miss rates among this year’s college pitchers in part due to a 91-92 mph fastball that can reach 94 mph when he needs it. Thompson’s fastball earns 55 grades, with a few scouts willing to call it a true plus pitch. His 84-85 mph slider is a high-spin rate, above-average pitch and has some power to it, although it sometimes gets loopier and slower as well. His significantly slower mid-70s curveball is less consistent, ranging anywhere from fringe-average to above-average depending on the pitch. He doesn’t throw his changeup all that often, but when he does, it is an average pitch as well. Thompson’s delivery is solid and he has made significant strides with his control this year, improving it to average even if his command still wavers. As a four-pitch lefty with success in the SEC pitching on Friday nights, Thompson is one of the most talented starting pitchers in a thin class. Scouts typically project him as a future No. 4 starter, but he may fall slightly below his talent level because of his injury history.
Wyatt possesses one of the most advanced hitting eyes of the entire 2019 draft class. After ranking third in the nation in walks (63) as a sophomore in 2018, he ranked second in the country with 52 walks through his first 44 games this spring. However, while Wyatt has an outstanding on-base percentage in his two seasons as a starter with Louisville, there are questions about the amount of power he possesses. He looks the part of a physical, slugging first baseman at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, but he hit only six home runs as a sophomore and had seven through his first 44 games as a junior. His power numbers were similarly underwhelming in the Cape Cod League in 2018, when he hit just four home runs in 40 games but slashed .305/.458/.438. Scouts believe Wyatt’s power will come, once he learns how to get into his legs more during his swing and becomes less passive at the plate. He’ll also need to improve the tempo and increase the load of his swing to help generate more power. As it stands, Wyatt uses the entire field well for doubles and has all the attributes of a hitter who could take a step forward once he gets to pro ball and makes a few adjustments. Wyatt is athletic for his size, but will likely be limited to first base at the next level as a below-average runner.
A 40th-round pick of the Giants coming out of high school, Bennett has been one of the more durable and reliable pitchers in the ACC over the past three seasons. But in the lead-up to the draft, his durability suddenly became a question as he was held out for two weeks with a forearm strain. When he returned, his stuff and command was a tick below normal, and he allowed nine hits and six earned runs in his first 2.1 innings back on the mound. When he’s at his best, Bennett can attack hitters with a 90-92 mph fastball and above-average control. He mixes in a big, slow, above-average curveball that has the ability to lock up hitters. The command and consistency of his curveball helps the pitch play up because he can throw it for a strike in any count. He also has an average changeup. Bennett has long impressed scouts with his fearlessness on the mound, but his late-season swoon complicates his draft status.
McAvene had Tommy John surgery as a freshman at Louisville, which cut his season short after just 17 innings. He pitched just 10 innings as a sophomore in 2018, and while he struck out more than 13 batters per nine, he struggled with control (6.1 walks per nine) and posted a 5.23 ERA. He has rebounded nicely, however, posting a 1.98 ERA with 39 strikeouts over his first 27 innings this spring. McAvene shows good arm speed and has been up to 97 mph with his fastball, sitting mostly in the 92-95 mph range out of the bullpen. He has shown an above-average slider and a curveball that grades as a fringe-average offering. After struggling to control the ball pre- and post-injury as a freshman and sophomore, McAvene walked just seven batters through his first 27 innings this spring. His profile stands out as a potential reliever with a solid fastball-breaking ball combo, and while it’s unlikely, some scouts think he has an outside shot to start at the next level.
Fitzgerald is the kind of college shortstop who gets drafted reasonably well because of his well-rounded game, even though he doesn’t have a plus tool. In fact, scouts see a lot more 40s and 45s on his scouting report than average 50s. Fitzgerald was a plus-plus runner in high school, but he’s slowed down to post average run times now. He’s also a fringe-average defender with an average arm. Fitzgerald was hitting .327/.405/.507 in late-May. Scouts project a fringe-average hit tool with fringe-average power in pro ball with a wood bat. Fitzgerald’s lack of above-average tools limits his upside, but his solid feel for the game and productive ACC career gives him a solid shot to be a day two draft pick as a useful middle infielder.
The Giants took Hoeing in the 36th round last year after his junior season with Louisville, but the 6-foot-6, 225-pound righty decided to go back to campus where he’s had a career-best year splitting time as a starter and a reliever. Through 50.2 innings, Hoeing has posted a 2.66 ERA with 10.84 strikeouts per nine that easily tops his previous best strikeout rate, and has also cut his walks. Hoeing has solid stuff, with a fastball that gets up to 95 and a pair of average secondaries in a curveball and a splitter. Hoeing has a clean, repeatable delivery with a three-quarter, low-effort slot, but he lacks deception and can get hit around at times a bit because of that. Hoeing has been more effective in a reliever role than as a starter.
As a redshirt senior, Ochsenbein is one of the oldest players in this year’s draft class. After pitching well in limited action as a freshman in 2015, Ochsenbein missed all of the 2016 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, then bounced back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation for the next two seasons. This year the Colonels let him work exclusively in the bullpen. The new role suited the 6-foot-3, 225-pound righthander as his newly developed splitter gave him an excellent one-two punch. Ochsenbein generally sits 93-95 mph with an above-average fastball and his splitter has quickly developed into an above-average pitch as well. His slider, which used to be his go-to secondary offering, is still an average pitch itself, although he doesn’t use it nearly as much. Ochsenbein has shown he can pitch on back-to-back days regularly without losing his stuff and he can also work three or four innings at a time if needed. He’s a talented senior sign who brings more to a team than just a below-slot signing bonus, which should ensure he goes off the board in the sixth to tenth round range.
Sanford is a 6-foot-2, 215-pound outfielder who put up gaudy numbers this spring in Conference USA. Through 56 games, Sanford posted a .398/.483/.805 line with 22 home runs and 20 doubles. Sanford has plenty of strength and plus-plus raw power, though there are scouts who question how much of that power he can get to against better pitching. Prior to his junior season with Western Kentucky, Sanford had two impressive offensive seasons with McCook (Neb.) JC and he doesn’t have much wood bat track record to speak of. Sanford is fringey defensively, as a below-average runner with a below-average arm that will limit him to left field or first base, putting plenty of emphasis on his bat.
9. Chase Estep, 3B, Corbin (Ken.) HS
Source: HS • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 190 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Kentucky
10. Ryan Shinn, OF, Kentucky
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 215 • B-T: R-L • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
11. Ryan Hawks, RHP, Warren East HS, Bowling Green, Ken.
Source: HS • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 205 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Louisville
12. Jaren Shelby, OF, Kentucky
Source: 4YR • Ht: 5-11 • Wt: 200 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
13. Drew McGowan, RHP/OF, University Heights Academy, Hopkinsville, Ken.
Source: HS • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 165 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Mississippi State
14. T.J. Collett, 1B, Kentucky
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 230 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Twins '16 (40)
15. Davis Sims, 3B, Western Kentucky
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 230 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted