Virginia's Top MLB Draft Prospects 2018
1. Jake McCarthy, OF, Virginia (BA Rank: 33)
4YR • • 6-2 • 195 • L-L •
The Virginia center fielder hasn’t been able to showcase his ability for most of the spring season, playing just 13 games because of a left wrist injury sustained in early March. As of April 26, McCarthy had yet to return to action, but he did hit .314/.446/.412 in his brief 13-game stint before the injury. Scouts and evaluators aren’t dinging him too much for the injury, as it’s not a chronic issue and his overall package and track record is impressive. With a strong return—whenever that may be—McCarthy could push himself into the first round as a college outfielder with a chance to play center field with above-average to plus speed. Missing this many games during a draft season is easier to tolerate with McCarthy because his history in the ACC and with a wood bat is so impressive. In 2017, McCarthy hit .338/.425/.506 with five home runs, 11 doubles and was seventh in the nation with seven triples. During the summer, McCarthy played 20 games with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and also hit .387/.441/.613 in a nine-game stint in the Cape Cod League. He draws some comparisons to former Virginia outfielder Adam Haseley, with opinions on his defensive ability ranging from a no-doubt center fielder with some scouts to other evaluators thinking he merely has a chance to stick there. Where McCarthy winds up will depend on what he does once healthy, but there’s no denying he has an impressive body of work.
2. Daniel Lynch, LHP, Virginia (BA Rank: 111)
4YR • 6-4 • 195 • L-L •
Lynch’s stock soared after a standout summer for Orleans in the Cape Cod League that earned him an all-star appearance. But as a three-year starter for Virginia, Lynch has been decidedly average in terms of college performance, posting a 12-12, 4.72 record through 200 college innings. Lynch’s greatest assets are his 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame, lefthandedness and his above-average control of a four-pitch mix—all qualities that suggest he could be a starter at the next level. Lynch’s stuff is average across the board, with his low-80s changeup flashing above-average at times. He generally works 89-92 mph with his fastball, touching 93, and he throws both a slider and a curveball. Those breaking balls occasionally morph together, but when he’s at his best his slider is the more effective pitch at missing bats. Lynch doesn't have one standout tool, but the sum of his parts gives him a chance to be a back-of-the-rotation innings eater.
3. D.J. Artis, OF, Liberty (BA Rank: 149)
4YR • 5-9 • 165 • L-L •
A third-team BA All-American in 2017, Artis has been a steady three-year starter for Liberty with a strong college track record of hitting. A 40th-round draftee of the Red Sox out of high school, Artis is a no-doubt center fielder with plus speed, albeit fringy lefthanded arm strength. Scouts are more divided on Artis' offensive approach. The small-framed, 5-foot-11, 195-pound lefthanded hitter crouches unusually low at the plate, shrinking his strike zone. He pairs the stance with a noticeably passive approach, which has been effective at the college level. He led the country with a program-record 62 walks last season and placed second nationally with a .532 on-base percentage. This spring, he's slashed .305/.464/.489 through 190 at-bats. Despite his statistical track record, some evaluators are skeptical his approach will play at the next level. Artis has several moving parts in his swing, and his hit tool ranks over his mostly gap power. He has bat speed, but he could require some tweaking to fully unlock his offensive potential. However, with his speed and defensive ability, as well as his advanced plate discipline, Artis profiles as a speedy leadoff type with a fourth-outfielder floor.
4. Josh Winder, RHP, Virginia Military Institute (BA Rank: 223)
4YR • Jr. • 6-5 • 210 • R-R •
In 2017, Winder set the Virginia Military Institute single-season record for both strikeouts (112) and innings pitched (107.2) while posting a 3.59 ERA. He excited scouts with a plus fastball in the mid-90s that he located well to both sides of the plate. In 2018, the stuff hasn’t been quite as good, as the 6-foot-5 righthander has been more in the 91-92 mph range and fallen into the upper 80s as he’s gotten into the third or fourth inning and beyond. His slider has backed up as well and it’s more of a fringe-average pitch after being a solid out-pitch last year. While he still managed a respectable walk rate with 19 free passes in 85 innings (2.01 BB/9), his strike-throwing has backed up this spring. He’s fanned 91 batters through 85 innings and posted a 5.40 ERA in 14 starts. Winder could still get taken in the fifth or sixth round by a team that’s confident he’ll get back to his 2017 version, but his stock has slipped a bit this spring.
5. Adam Hackenberg, C, Miller School, Charlottesville, Va. (BA Rank: 256)
HS • 6-2 • 225 • R-R •
A big, 6-foot-2, 225-pound backstop with a mature body, Hackenburg stands out for his plus raw power and tremendous arm strength—drawing 70 grades from many scouts who have seen him throw from behind the plate. Hackenburg had a very loud tournament at last fall’s World Wood Bat Association World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., catching for the Canes’ National Team and splitting time behind the dish with Anthony Seigler. Offensively, he doesn't have great feel for the strike zone currently, but his swing is solid enough to allow his power to play in-games. There is some work to do in cleaning up his actions behind the plate, as Hackenburg’s receiving and blocking are both below-average and he has some stiffness, but he is athletic enough to make the necessary adjustments and could develop into an above-average defender. A Clemson commit, Hackenburg is one of the smartest kids in his high school class.
6. Cristian Sanchez, RHP, Centreville (Va.) HS (BA Rank: 275)
HS • 6-3 • 170 • R-R •
A rail-thin, wiry righthander committed to Virginia, Sanchez has a ton of projection thanks to his quick arm and projectable frame. He was up to 92-93 mph with his fastball during the fall, and he has great life on the pitch currently, but more often than not he’s in the upper 80s. His offspeed offerings are intriguing as well, as Sanchez has feel to spin a curveball that could turn into a plus pitch down the line. He’s inconsistent presently, losing command here and there at times and most of his big time stuff has come in shorter stints. With more weight added to a 6-foot-3, 170-pound frame that can take a lot more, scouts think he will throw with an above-average fastball down the line with a curveball that can be a real outpitch. A Virginia commit, Sanchez is expected to be a tough sign if he’s taken near where his ranking suggests.
7. Tre Todd, OF, Liberty (BA Rank: 371)
4YR • Jr. • 6-1 • 205 • L-R •
Todd transferred to Liberty after a 2017 season with Harford (Md.) JC, where he hit .408/.577/.856 with 20 home runs and 40 stolen bases. The numbers haven’t been quite as gaudy against much better competition in the Big South, but still managed a .315/.479/.553 triple slash with 10 home runs and has walked 60 times—which is among the most in the entire country. Todd has always walked at an extremely high rate, though he’s also struck out 61 times this spring. Defensively, Todd is a catcher and outfielder, though scouts have seen him more in left field and he’s currently throwing with 30-grade arm strength with a torn labrum. He’s played more in left field for Liberty this spring, where he’s a below-average runner (despite what his JuCo steals totals might have suggested) and a well-below average defender there. He has plus raw power that plays to the opposite field, and would profile much better behind the plate, but it’s currently hard to tell if he’ll ever throw enough to play there.
2018 Recruiting Rankings: The Next 10
On the heels of last week's top 25, we looked at 10 teams who just missed the cut, but still have impressive classes entering 2019.
8. Cade Hungate, 3B/RHP, Abingdon (Va.) HS (BA Rank: 386)
HS • 6-2 • 185 • R-R •
A third baseman and righthanded pitcher, Hungate has a higher ceiling as a position player with a powerful bat. He has present strength with a 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame and scouts believe he will develop above-average or plus power down the road. A Florida State commit, Hungate has average bat speed and some moving parts to his swing, including an arm bar and a long stride, with a long follow through and finish after contact. A below-average runner, there is some concern that Hungate might eventually have to move from third base to first base, in which case there becomes more pressure on his hit tool. On the mound, Hungate has been up to 92 mph, but teams seem to be more interested in him as a hitter.
9. Jack DeGroat, RHP, Liberty (BA Rank: 406)
4YR • 6-2 • 195 • R-R •
DeGroat last summer had one of the better campaigns of any player in the Cape Cod League. He did not allow a run in 12 appearances (including the playoffs), struck out 30 batters in 15 innings and held opponents to five hits and seven walks. Coming off that summer, DeGroat was expected to be Liberty’s Friday starter, which would have given him a chance to show scouts he could start. But he missed this season due to Tommy John surgery. When he’s healthy, DeGroat has power stuff. His fastball sat 92-94 mph in short stints during the summer and he paired it with a biting slider. His power arsenal fits well in the bullpen.
10. Evan Sperling, RHP, Virginia (BA Rank: 414)
4YR • 6-5 • 215 • R-R •
A 6-foot-5, 215-pound righthander, Sperling had a strong start to the season in Virginia’s starting rotation, with 40 strikeouts to 12 walks through his first five starts and 26.2 innings. That stretch was highlighted by a 12-strikeout game at Duke on March 10. Sperling missed all of April and part of May with a strained forearm and a banged up knee before returning to the mound in relief capacity on May 15. Sperling relies on funk and deception more than overpowering stuff, with below-average fastball that sits in the 85-90 mph range, but he’s been up to 92-93 at times. His changeup is ahead of his breaking ball presently, so he’ll need to improve that offering to survive in pro ball.
11. Cameron Simmons, OF, Virginia
4YR • Jr. • 6-3 • 195 • R–R • Never Drafted
12. Connor Coward RHP Virginia Tech
4YR • Sr. • 6-0 • 200 • R-R • Never Drafted
13. Bennett Sousa LHP Virginia
4YR • Sr. • 6-3 • 210 • L-L • Nationals '17 (34)
14. Grant Donohue RHP Virginia
4YR • Jr. • 6-1 • 198 • R-R • Never Drafted
15. Nick Eikhoff 3B Virginia
4YR • Jr. • 5-11 • 190 • L-R • Never Drafted
16. Nick Zona SS Hanover HS, Mechanicsville, Va.
HS • - • 6-3 • 175 • R-R •