Less than a month remains for players to make their mark. Here’s a quick rundown of recent news that could impact the first round.
- LHP Seth Romero has been dismissed from the Houston baseball program, this time for a fight with a teammate before batting practice, and this time for good. He won’t rejoin the team during the final month of the season, so it appears his college career is over. Earlier this year, Romero was pitching like an All-American, before getting hit with an indefinite suspension, reportedly for a failed drug test.
- It was an incredible weekend for college pitching, with several of the top names putting together some sensational performances. To learn more, check out our recap of the weekend that was.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at our most recent projections for the first round.
Hunter Greene, RHP/SS, Notre Dame HS (CA)
Greene is done on the mound this season, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t still winning games all by himself. Two long home runs were part of a 3-for-4 effort in his most recent contest, with the opposing coach admitting his team’s confidence was shaken by Greene’s recent Sports Illustrated cover. Minnesota still seems to be on the fence between going with the presumptive pick, Greene, or tabbing Brendan McKay. Other options include college right-handers J.B. Bukauskas and Kyle Wright.
Brendan McKay, LHP, Louisville
Rumor has it about half the teams in baseball are split on whether they prefer McKay on the mound or at the plate, with the player himself asking teams if they’d let him do both for a while before having to commit to pitching long-term. Make no mistake, he’s a first-round talent at the plate, and his bat of late has been as hot as any hitter in college baseball. Still, it’s rare to find a pitcher with fastball command as impressive as McKay’s, making the decision relatively easy for the Reds if the Twins pass on him with the first pick.
San Diego Padres
Royce Lewis, SS/OF, JSerra Catholic HS (CA)
With the way that Kyle Wright is pitching, he’ll make it really hard for the Padres to look in any direction other than his, but at the end of the day, Lewis is the best option here. Three plus tools, a strong chance to stick at a premium position, and of course the local roots don’t hurt. The more video we watch of Lewis, the more he seems to resemble former first-round pick Francisco Lindor. A player like that is definitely worthy of the No. 3 pick, and a solid consolation prize for missing out on the local product they really want, in Hunter Greene.
Tampa Bay Rays
Austin Beck, OF, North Davidson HS (NC)
The Rays recent drafting woes have been much publicized. The team knows it must get better, and while that might translate to drafting a college hitter or pitcher that could hit the minor league circuit running and put up good numbers, the more likely approach will be to stick to the organizational plan of drafting “best player available.” If that holds true, that player would likely be Beck. His knee seems to be fully recovered and he’s showing three plus tools, including some of the draft’s best raw power.
Kyle Wright, RHP, Vanderbilt
You could make an argument for Wright slotting in with each of the first four teams, but Atlanta will probably be the floor for the right-hander, who has been the hottest pitcher in college baseball the past month. Provided he keeps his form, and continues showing three plus offerings, the Braves will happily make him the fifth player drafted, and add him to the cabal of pitching talent they’ve acquired the past few years, including Sean Newcomb, Max Fried, Kolby Allard and last year’s first-rounder, Ian Anderson.
MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Whitevile HS (NC)
Last year was the first time the A’s had selected inside the top-ten since 1999. That’s a pretty good stretch, but it also makes it hard to judge what they’ll do with this year’s pick. Most outlets seem to predict that the A’s will go after the top college hitter available, and while that theory does have a track record to support it (they’ve gone college hitter with their first pick six times since 2007), let’s give the A’s a little more credit than mocking them Pavin Smith or Keston Hiura. Gore is easily the BPA, and has a higher ceiling than any of the other available players.
J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, North Carolina
Scouts seem to be torn on whether or not Bukauskas will stick as a starter, or have to be moved to the bullpen. If it’s the latter, even the most pessimistic talent evaluators seem to agree that the right-hander will be an elite closer. He has one of the best fastballs in the college class, and his slider is arguably the best pitch in the entire draft class, save for Hunter Greene’s fastball. Doubts about his long-term role will probably drop him from the first five picks to the second five, and Arizona will likely pounce on him if he’s available. If he can overcome the shadow of doubt that is so often cast on smaller pitchers, he could be the steal of the entire draft.
Alex Faedo, RHP, Florida
Faedo has continued to pitch like a top-of-the-rotation starter, with a 2.42 ERA and 93/25 K/BB through 12 starts in the toughest conference in the country. And while he’s likely best case a #2 at the pro level, he checks all the boxes for the Phillies, who could use big-league ready pitching. Most of their top pitching prospects are low in the minors, and Faedo has the skill-set and mentality that could get him to Double-A ball by the start of the 2018 season.
Pavin Smith, 1B/OF, Virginia
The Brewers inability to draft and develop first round talent is well documented. A good way to get back on track is with a player like Smith. His bat is his carrying tool, leaving him looking at either a future as an average first baseman or a slightly below-average corner outfielder, but luckily for him his bat is incredibly good. He’s averaging a strikeout every 26 at-bats and for the second year in a row will draw more walks than strikeouts. He’s arguably the most patient hitter in college baseball, and that is usually a tool that carries over from college to the pros. He’s always been an elite hitter, but this year he’s tapped into more power.
Los Angeles Angels
Hagen Danner, RHP/C, Huntington Beach HS (CA)
Ready for your curveball? The Angels have thrown them in back-to-back drafts in the first round, going with the signable Taylor Ward in 2015, and going back for another catcher in Matt Thiass last year. Danner came into this season with more cred as a catcher, but over the course of the season has shown three above-average offerings and above-average command, rocketing him up team’s draft boards. He’s gone from second-round talent to a possible top-ten pick. His recent performance in the Boras Classic only solidified the surge momentum heading his way. Once upon a time, it seemed as though teammate Nick Pratto would be drafted first, but the closer we get to draft day, the better Danner looks.
Chicago White Sox
Jeren Kendall, OF, Vanderbilt
Drafting seven out of every ten picks from the college rank would count as a “trend.” And then there’s the White Sox. Fifteen of their last 17 (88%) first round selections have come from the collegiate level. Considering the misses they’ve had from the high school ranks, it’s hard to blame them. Kendall may not be a high-ceiling player like some of the prep prospects available, but his floor is as an elite defender with plus-plus speed. Even if his hitting (.308 career) and newly-discovered power (13 HR in 201 AB) don’t carry over into pro ball, he’ll still likely carve out some kind of career at the big-league level. If they do…look out.
Griffin Canning, RHP, UCLA
The Pirates farm system has been thinned dramatically over the past few years, and the majority of their top pitching talent is either in the big-leagues or waiting for the call at the upper level of the minors. Time to start developing the next wave. With four of the first 72 picks, they’re in tremendous shape to restock their farm system a bit. They’ll likely go safe with their first pick, and Canning is as good as any. He came into the season as a second-round talent, but has really opened eyes with a four-pitch arsenal of above-average offerings. He’s been consistent all year long, and is really peaking at the right time.
Jordon Adell, OF, Ballard HS (KY)
Some teams are inevitably scared off by prospects hit with the “raw” label. The Marlins are not one of those organizations. One could argue that their last three first-rounders (Braxton Garrett, Josh Naylor and Tyler Kolek) were more raw than any of the players selected before them. Taking that into account, it’s hard to envision them avoiding Adell. Yes, he’s raw. Yes, he probably doesn’t resemble the player right now that he’ll probably be when he reaches the big-leagues. Still, it’s not that often that players come along with as impressive a skill-set as the Kentucky outfielder.
Kansas City Royals
Shane Baz, RHP, Concordia Lutheran HS (TX)
Baz has a ton of helium as we head into May. Combine that with a mid-90s fastball and the best cutter we’ve seen come out of the high school ranks since Dylan Bundy, and it stands to reason that he’ll end up somewhere inside the top-15 selections.
Keston Hiura, 2B/OF, UC-Irvine
I’m sure the Astros have a dozen or so players they’re considering here at No. 15, but if Hiura was somehow to fall to them, there’s no doubt they’d scoop him up. Despite not taking the field all season, Hiura has established himself as arguably the top pure hitter, for average, in this draft class. Nearly 50 games into the season, he’s still hitting above .400. He’s shown incredible plate discipline and has more speed than his pedestrian stolen base numbers suggest. In terms of pure hitting ability, Hiura comps nicely to current Astros second baseman Jose Altuve.
New York Yankees
Nick Pratto, 1B/LHP, Huntington Beach HS (CA)
You’d be hard-pressed to find a high school bat more likely to make an impact than Pratto’s. His polish at the plate far exceeds any of the other raw hitters like Adell and Garrett Mitchell and Jordan Anderson. It’s rare to see a high school hitter with a floor as low as Pratto’s. In many respects, he reminds us of Dominic Smith (1st round, 2013), who has emerged as one of the top hitting prospects in baseball. The Yankees have picked in this range the past few years and there’s no question they have scooped up players that many didn’t expect to still be around when they selected. Pratto would be another.
David Peterson, LHP, Oregon
The Mariners will probably take a long look at Alex Lange, and will no doubt do their due diligence on Seth Romero, but something tells us they’ll lean towards Peterson. The imposing lefty has incredible momentum right now, coming off a 20-strikeout performance, and following that up with a 10-strikeout gem. His stuff plays up thanks to incredible command of his offerings, which include a low-90s fastball and a curveball/changeup combo that has rendered him nearly unhittable this season.
Alex Lange, RHP, Louisiana State
The Tigers have never been shy about drafting pitchers that are borderline starter-relievers. Lange also fits that bill. Make no mistake, he has the mentality to start games, and if he can hone his command, he could be an inning-eater. But there are concerns about whether Lange’s stuff is good enough to make it through a lineup two or three times. He’s certainly shown some chinks in the armor at LSU, giving up hits by the truckload and issuing more walks than his rotation-mates. Still, his fastball can touch 97 and his curveball flashes plus at times. Whoever ends up with him will no doubt give him the chance to start, knowing his floor is as a dominating closer.
San Francisco Giants
Adam Haseley, OF, Virginia
The Giants didn’t have a first-round selection last year, but the performance of the two they did have in 2015 should give them great confidence about the future of this winning franchise. Few teams have done as well evaluating talent in the first round, and no team has had as impressive a success rate with college players. Continuing that trend, the Giants will probably take a long, hard look at Haseley. He’s done nothing but hit since landing in Charlottesville, and this season he’s been an absolute terror, hitting close to .400 with great power numbers. His plate discipline rivals any other college player in this draft class, and in centerfield he’s an above-average defender.
New York Mets
Seth Romero, LHP, Houston
The Mets seem to love dysfunction, so why not saddle them with the draft’s most dysfunctional player. In the span of one month, Romero established himself as the top lefty pitcher in this draft, got suspended for a failed drug test, worked his way back into the good graces of the athletic department, made several dominating relief appearances, and then reportedly got into a fight with a teammate, ultimately leading to his dismissal from the baseball program. If Romero can get his emotions under control and work through issues he clearly has, he’s got frontline stuff, including a mid-90s fastball and a slider that flashes plus.
Nate Pearson, RHP, State College of Central Florida
It’s been more than a decade since the Orioles went the JUCO route with their first round pick, but Pearson definitely warrants a look. Just two years ago, he was a high school senior who couldn’t get his fastball above 93 mph. Nowadays, he sits 93-95, and can reach back for a whole lot more. He’s reportedly hit 100 on the radar gun several times the past year and a half. Toss in an above-average slider and a developing curveball, and Pearson has all the tools to develop into a front-of-the-rotation starter.
Toronto Blue Jays
Jake Burger, 3B, Missouri State
The Jays have two first round selections and with just under $5.1 million to allocate between the two, they’ll likely end up taking a safer, more signable prospect with one of their picks. Burger would be perfect. He’s a solid pro prospect, but he doesn’t have the ceiling that makes you think he’d balk at an offer around $2.5 million. He’s been tearing the cover off the ball this season, and has arguably the best raw power of any college hitter available, but he’ll have a decent amount of doubters who question the level of competition he faces on a regular basis and whether or not he’ll be an all-or-nothing hitter at the pro level.
Los Angeles Dodgers
D.L. Hall, LHP, Valdosta HS (GA)
Despite reports of his stock slipping this season, Hall is still the second-best lefty from the prep ranks after Gore. The Dodgers have never been known to be scared off by other’s teams concerns, so don’t expect them to rely on anyone else’s opinion of Hall but their own. Diminutive in stature, Hall pitches much bigger. His fastball can reach the mid-90s and his curveball should be an above-average offering.
Boston Red Sox
Heliot Ramos, OF, Leadership Christian Academy (PR)
The Red Sox rarely let need dictate their drafting. The front-office is clearly a believer in “best player available,” which is why, despite having one of the best outfield trios in baseball, and a few more talented pieces in the minors, they’d still happily pluck Ramos off the heap if he’s still available when they pick near the end of the first round. His speed is top-notch and his bat has shown flashes of immense raw power. He’s a high-risk, high-reward player, but if he puts it all together, he’ll make a major league impact just like Benintendi, Bradley and Betts.
Tanner Houck, RHP, Missouri
Houck was having a relatively ho-hum campaign until a primetime matchup with Vanderbilt’s Kyle Wright this past weekend pumped up his competitive juices. All the things that had been lacking from Houck’s previous performances was there. His fastball looked crisp, sitting in the low-to-mid 90s and his breaking ball was, at times, devastating. Consistency is the key for Houck, however, and without it, he won’t go much higher than this.
Sam Carlson, RHP, Burnsville HS (MN)
The Rangers have two of the last five picks in the first round, setting them up to nab some players that might fall early on day one. Carlson has been rising up draft boards as of late. The baseball season up in Minnesota starts a little later than in the rest of the country, so when the right-hander finally got on the mound this year, he flashed better velocity and a crisp breaking ball. If he slips out of the first round altogether, he’s likely to honor his commitment to Florida.
Stuart Fairchild, OF, Wake Forest
Ah, the Cubbies. Few teams have benefited as much from the draft, but gone are the days of picking inside the top-ten, something they did five times between 2011 and 2015. They always seem to prioritize hitting, so expect them to go hard after college hitters like Fairchild, Gavin Sheets and Drew Ellis. Fairchild likely has the highest ceiling, however, with an impressive combination of power and speed. His defensive ability is easily his best tool, however, making him one of the more complete college prospects available.
Toronto Blue Jays
Logan Warmoth, SS, North Carolina
Warmoth is the top shortstop from the college ranks, and since such a premium is placed on the position, he might end up going inside the top-15 picks. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him fall this far. Lacking any one standout tool. Instead, Warmoth does everything “pretty well.” He should be able to stick at shortstop long-term, and his bat has been incredibly consistent this year. He’s got the wheels to steal 15-20 bases a year. He reminds us a lot of fellow Tar Heel Levi Michael, who was also drafted towards the back of the first round.
Brady McConnell, SS, Merritt Island HS (FL)
McConnell is a top-20 talent for us, but he has shown poorly this spring. He recouped some momentum at the National High School Invitational, but he has all the signs of a player that will likely slip on draft day. Still, we think he’s a potential All-Star, hitting for average and stealing bases by the truckload, while offering slightly-above-average defense. He’ll likely command a signing bonus somewhere around $3 million, especially if he does slip. Texas should have enough resources to get a deal done.
Luke Heimlich, LHP, Oregon State
A National League squad can only squeeze so many hitters into a lineup, so while the Cubs may take a look at likely SEC Player of the Year Brent Rooker, they’ll probably go for pitching with one of their two late picks. Heimlich is in the running for national pitcher of the year honors, thanks to a fastball that he commands like a wizard, a curveball that flashes plus and an above-average changeup. His diminutive stature and less-than-premium velocity (86-92) will probably drop him out of the first round, but if he does squeeze his way in, the Cubs would be a good fit.