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Mechanics Of Evaluation Series: Age Part One, Age Part Two & Projecting
For a full list of picks in every round, check out MLB's handy Draft Tracker and for other content on the players listed below, clicking on their name or checking out Scout.com's Draft Central where you can find links for scouting videos for many players below and full scouting reports on every player in my Top 111 Draft Rankings and many others.
Mark Appel was the best player in the draft, should've gone number one and the Astros, Appel and Scott Boras did the right thing here banging out a below slot deal at $6.35 million. I described this on the Draft Recap Podcast as "score one for the good guys" since, of course, I'm the good guy and this is what I thought should happen. It was obvious to me that Appel was a superior prospect to Jonathan Gray (much less obvious over Kris Bryant) and scouting directors were admitting Gray was considered in Appel's class only after it was understood Gray would be cheaper. Appel isn't a #1 starter for me, but it is a high probability to quickly hit his #2 ceiling with a #3 starter being a outcome if some stuff goes wrong. This is exactly what the Astros needed and kudos to them for not getting too creative and using rumor to their negotiating leverage, even if it blew up mock drafts.
The Astros took two signability risks in the 10th and 11th rounds presumably as priority guys they'd like to spend some savings on from earlier picks: Virginia prep LHP Austin Nicely (Virginia signee) and Nevada prep RHP Devonte German (Nevada signee). Nicely has already signed for $610,000 but scout accounts I got on him were varied this spring. At times he would work 83-88 mph, while other times he'd be 87-90 and hit 92 mph. Weather and a late basketball season gave him a short spring and reason for scouts to project more on promising summer/fall outings. German hasn't signed yet and has a higher ceiling than Nicely but also gets extremely varied accounts. German is 6'5, 240 pounds and will sit in the low 90's when it all comes together. He's got some athleticism as primarily a football player so you can see big velocity coming, but the consistency and off-speed stuff come and go. Houston also drafted special assistant Roger's son Kacy Clemens (Texas signee) as more of a courtesy as Kacy is the type of player that should go to college to hope to improve his stuff and he wouldn't want to money he's worth right now.
Houston went college-heavy up top, following Appel with UC Irvine RHP Andrew Thurman, North Carolina LHP Kent Emanuel, and a duo from Vanderbilt, 1B Conrad Gregor and 2B Tony Kemp. Thurman is a great value pick that easily could've snuck into the first round with above average stuff and command at times. Emanuel will flash a plus changeup and above average command but an 87-91 mph fastball and average curveball make him more of a back-end starter. Gregor has been very inconsistent with game performance but has good hitting tools, an advanced eye at the plate and above average left-handed power while Kemp is more of a one-dimensional plus runner and slap hitter that gets on base. Other college guys worth mentioning are South Florida center fielder James Ramsay (can hit and run more than you'd think at first glance) and Washington State 3B Adam Nelubowich (flashed hitting potential on Cape but power and spring performance are question marks) while SEC lefties LSU's Chris Cotton and Arkansas' Randall Fant are famous for their numbers and had big roles on college powerhouses, but get by with below average stuff.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels didn't have a first round pick but got a player some thought would be a 1st rounder in Kentucky prep LHP Hunter Green, a Kentucky signee. Green was one of the younger and more projectable lefties in the whole class and came on late as one might expect, getting into the low-90's with a three pitch mix and some athleticism. He's 6'4 and skinny, so there's more to come but Green is pretty skinny and while his arm action looks smooth, his elbow gets a little higher in the stroke than I like to see for pure projection arms. The upside here is as a #2/3 starter if it all comes together, but this is mostly projection and there's lots of ways for that to go wrong.
There were some other smaller college arms the Angels took that I liked with their later picks. Keynan Middleton, a righty from an Oregon junior college, checks a lot of boxes as a Division 1 caliber shooting guard with athleticism and a four-pitch mix headlined by a fastball that's been up to 95 mph. He's 6'3, 210 pounds and has a mid-rotation potential but a long way to go to get there. Florida Gulf Coast righty Harrison Cooney started the season in relief, sitting 92-94 and hitting 96 mph with an above average breaking ball and usable changeup, so the Eagles moved him to the rotation to see if it could work in longer outings. It didn't really take as his mentality and stuff fit best at the end of games, so the Angels are hoping he can be a late inning guy for them. Florida juco righty Garrett Nuss spent his freshman year at UCF before transferring and made some strides this spring to adding some refinement. Nuss was more of a 90-93 mph max effort reliever with a 55 curveball on the 20-80 scale and below averarage command at UCF, but became more of a starter this season, sitting 88-93 and hitting 95 mph at his best. His breaking ball was inconsistent but would still flash 55 at it's best and he added an average changeup, but often would have more fringy to average stuff as he's still learning to be consistent. NorCal prep LHP Jonah Wesely (UCLA signee) isn't huge and gives away more plane with some drop-and-drive funk to his delivery, but will flash above average stuff at his best from a four pitch mix. It's more of a 4th starter fit long term, but there's more polish in this high schooler than the college players mentioned above. One of my favorite pre-draft stories was from a draft room where a scout compared Siena OF Michael Fish to Mike Trout physically to jeers from the room, before realizing he not only fell into two traps: comping ordinary players to Mike Trout in any way and to another guy with a fish-related surname.
Oakland continues to make solid value choices and scoop up talent, pounding on Texas prep CF Billy McKinney (TCU signee), Oklahoma LHP Dillon Overton and Virginia Tech 3B Chad Pinder with their first three picks. McKinney is somewhat polarizing as he's a smaller guy without big raw power and without obvious plus speed, so some clubs saw him as a tweener that didn't fit everyday in center or left. Most clubs see him as an above average runner with good instincts on the bases that can stick in center and while his mechanics aren't perfect, just hits like it's going out of style. Overton has been in the mid-90's before but had some injuries this spring and was more often showing fringy to average stuff and moxie. There's some projection and he's had above average stuff in the past, so a back-end starter projection could improve if the stuff returns. I had Pinder ahead of Overton on my board and think he's a low-end everyday infielder that eventually likely ends up at third but could start at shortstop or second. He has some raw power than may produce 15-18 homers annually at maturity and some feel to hit.
Among the other college players Oakland took that I liked are Oregon 1B Ryon Healy, San Diego RHP Dylan Covey, Ole Miss RHP Bobby Wahl, Texas State RHP Kyle Finnegan and Stanford RHP A.J. Vanegas. Healy can hit, has average raw power and there's a chance he could play third base, but is likely a low-end everyday first baseman to platoon type if things work out. Covey was a first rounder out of high school that didn't sign due to a late discovery of diabetes and he never quite put it all together in college. His frame/stamina were never quite right, but he'll hit 95 mph with an above average curve and usable changeup at times, so late-inning reliever or innings eating starter are both in play. Wahl had mid first round buzz after a great summer but backed up this spring with blister and oblique issues. He projects as a #3/4 starter with an above average fastball/slider combo and an average changeup and slowly improved his command as he moved past injuries this spring. Finnegan is a pure power arm that's likely a reliever and Vanegas is the same but Vanegas flashes closer stuff and turned down a lot of money out of high school, so he's one of the tougher signs in this class.
Three high schoolers to keep an eye on are LA-area prep LHP Chris Kohler (USC signee), Washington prep RHP Dustin Driver (UCLA signee) and Puerto Rican infielder Edwin Diaz. Kohler has some projection so his 87-91 mph fastball could be average in time and his average curveball and above average changeup gives him some Kent Emanuel type upside. Driver is maxed-out physically and could sit in the low 90's at a young age with solid command and hit 95 mph this spring, but his off-speed stuff is more fringy to average right now. Diaz has great hands, giving him a chance, along with his above average arm, to be an above average defensive third baseman and could project for 15 home runs but his bat still needs to improve.
The Mariners first two picks New Mexico 1B D.J. Peterson and Stanford RF Austin Wilson fit a trend with scouting director Tom McNamara to choose advanced college bats with his top picks. Peterson was a very solid value at 11th overall, as my 8th ranked player that was getting lots of Billy Butler comparisons as a plus hit/plus power first baseman that looks physically like a generic AAA slugger but is athletic in the batter's box. Wilson is a more interesting case that I discussed in depth on a podcast with Eno Sarris of FanGraphs. Wilson's upside is a .270 hitter with 25-30 home runs and solid average defense in right field--a ceiling from a college player that usually doesn't get out of the top 10-15 picks. The problem is Wilson has been hurt a good bit and hasn't had a ton of at bats strung together with good performance against high level pitching. He's slowly improved but his injury this spring (elbow) interrupted his progress and the Stanford approach to hitting has likely undermined him for the past three springs. I ranked Wilson 33rd on my list, but clubs had a lot of trouble getting excited about him, due in part to his above slot asking price--he signed for $1.7 million, a slot that falls between the 31st and 32nd picks. I was told the Mariners were still not sold on Wilson until he went insane in a private pre-draft workout in Seattle where he abused the outfield bleachers.
Among the other players to keep an eye on from this class: Canadian bat Tyler O'Neill (Oregon State signee), Texas prep C/1B Corey Simpson (Houston signee), and Virginia Tech LHP Eddie Campbell. O'Neill and Simpson both have played a lot of catcher as amateurs, but neither has a chance to stick there professionally. O'Neill is likely a right fielder and is a maxed-out, muscular-bordering-on-stiff 6'0, 215 pounds. He has big bat speed and some looseness at the plate along with raw power that could be enough for right field if he ends up there. Simpson is slow enough that he's a no-doubt first baseman, which is a waste of his above average arm strength. He's one of the older players in the prep class and shows huge raw power, occasionally in games, but his 6'3, 220 pound frame isn't doing him favors and there's a lot of swing-and-miss here. Campbell is a smallish lefty that's hit 95 mph in relief but started this spring and had more ordinary stuff. Other names worth mentioning include Stanford SS Lonnie Kauppila, more of a second or third baseman professionally that has some raw power and patience but also contact issues and two later high school picks that have some potential: Atlanta-area prep 1B Nate Maggio (Tennessee signee) and Chicago-area prep CF Corey Ray (Louisville signee).
The Rangers took a guy that I thought was a great value in Oral Roberts RHP Alex Gonzalez and took a guy that I didn't really understand all the first round hype around in Atlanta-area prep SS Travis Demeritte (South Carolina signee). Gonzalez was 17th on my list and made sense as a solid mid-first round talent with mid-rotation potential and no red flags but also nothing plus-plus to offer. Gonzalez is 6'3, 200 pounds with a 91-94 mph sinker and a plus slider when he's right, along with a changeup that's above average at times. The package is very similar to my 25th overall prospect who went a few picks ahead of Gonzalez, Jacksonville RHP Chris Anderson. Demeritte, for me, is a limited projection 6'1, 180 pound shortstop now who doesn't have the actions to stick there long term. He profiles best at second base and the bat plays--he has above average bat speed, looseness and feel to hit--but has never played second base before, as he played third for his travel team over the summer. The problem is that Demeritte has limited quickness and solid average at best foot speed to go with 40 raw power on the 20-80 scale, though it shows up in games. I ranked Demeritte 51st on my top 111 and there were lots of rumors he'd go higher than this. I think the Rangers have him as a shortstop that is just good enough to stick and think the athleticism and looseness will bring a notch more power down the road.
While I like the Rangers third pick, second rounder and South Carolina prep RHP Akeem Bostick (Georgia Southern signee), I think they reached a little bit on this one, too. Bostick is a lanky 6'5, 185 pound athlete with a cousin in the NFL and all kinds of looseness and projection to go with a current low-90's fastball that's hit 95 mph before. The issue is that everything else is projection with Bostick's command and off-speed stuff being below average every outing this spring, although his slider shows the most promise of the bunch, with average potential. The Rangers popped him at the 62nd pick and paid him the 100th pick's slot, so the bonus is more in line with where other clubs had him, but still on the high side. Other college guys to keep an eye on from this class: Liberty CF Ryan Cordell, Texas Juco RHP David Gates and Mississippi State LHP Luis Pollorena. Cordell has a long, athletic 6'4 frame and 70 speed on the 20-80 scale, enough to catch scout's attention. The problem is his solid swing doesn't make as much contact as you'd hope, so he's seen as more of a lottery ticket at this point. Gates reportedly hit 100 mph over the fall and regularly hit confirmed upper 90's readings leading up to the spring. He was down a few ticks this spring where his lack of off-speed and feel shone through along with some maturity issues. Pollorena is a gamer senior sign that works 87-90 mph with an above average changeup but is a smallish lefty that lacks an average breaking ball. The two prep guys to keep an eye on as possible late signings are Tennessee prep RHP Dakota Hudson (projectable 6'5 righty that's been into the mid 90's but sits around 90 with potential above average curveball but limited polish), a Mississippi State signee and Texas prep 3B Sheldon Neuse, an Oklahoma signee (flashes average fastball-slider combo on the mound but prefers to hit, with loose swing, all-fields power and above average arm).