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We are just under two months away from the Major League Baseball draft. This is also the halfway point of the college baseball season, and the most significant high school baseball tournament took place last weekend in North Carolina. There is enough game data to sit down and sort out who the top prospects are but also understand that a lot can still change in the next two months. Especially on the college level as we are approaching big conference matchups later in April.
This makes it a good opportunity to formulate a mini-draft board of who would be the Top 10 prospects at this moment.
1. Casey Mize, RHP – Auburn University
I wrote about Mize last week and sat down with 2080’s Burke Granger to discuss his scouting report. In his past three starts against #6 Texas A&M, #8 Kentucky, and #24 Missouri, Mize has thrown 21.2 IP allowing 15 hits, five earned runs, with 32 strikeouts and zero walks. Mize has been a model of consistent excellence both in quality of his stuff but demonstrating he’s healthy enough to pitch at least seven innings per start in the SEC. A grip change in his slider has eased tightness in his forearm without impacting the pitch quality.
2. Matthew Liberatore, LHP – Mountain Ridge High School (AZ)
A big question of late regarding Matthew Liberatore is maintaining his fastball velocity. Some have said that Liberatore is reaching 97 mph with his fastball, but then later in games is having a hard time pushing past 90 mph. Before this season, many wrote about Liberatore’s secondary offerings (changeup, curveball) being better than his fastball. It was when Liberatore early this season was popping 97 mph in the mitt that his stock rising to the level to be considered 1-1.
With scouts in attendance last weekend at the NHSI, they saw Liberatore struggle in the first two innings allowing two runs. Then a switch turned on, as Liberatore struck out 10 of the next 17 batters he faced to have a very impressive stat line of seven innings, one hit, two earned runs, one walk, and 10 strikeouts. Liberatore has worked hard on his craft as Richard Morin of the Arizona Republic shared with us a couple of weeks ago on the podcast. With Ethan Hankins overcoming shoulder issues, Liberatore is the best prep pitcher in this class.
3. Nolan Gorman, 3B – Sandra Day O’Connor (AZ)
In a draft class with very few impact bats, Nolan Gorman’s power potential stands out from the crowd. He didn’t have the best NHSI performance as those who attended the showcase mention Gorman missing driveable pitches. Athletically limited, Gorman’s future position is at third base and if you don’t think he’s quick enough there, his home will be at first base. Despite those two concerns, Gorman is raking in this season hitting .458 with seven home runs and five doubles with 21 walks and 10 strikeouts. With Gorman’s bat speed, he should be crushing against his high school peers so it’s a good sign that he is. Later this month, Sandra Day O’Connor will meet Mountain Ridge which means Liberatore vs. Gorman. I’m sure there will be a few scouts in attendance.
4. Shane McClanahan, LHP – South Florida
5. Brady Singer, RHP – Florida
6. Logan Gilbert, RHP – Stetson
In my opinion, there is Casey Mize, and then there is the trio of Shane McClanahan, Logan Gilbert, and Brady Singer. You can arrange that three anyway you want and you’ll won’t get much of an argument from me.
I watched McClanahan’s start against North Carolina which was a view from behind home plate on the web stream so it was difficult to grasp the movement on his pitches. The good regarding McClanahan is his fastball is 97+ mph and has hit 99 mph this season, and he has a wipeout slider that is very effective against right-handed hitters. The bad is that McClanahan has average command. He has much better command pitching glove side than arm side, so while he can get his fastball to the inside corner on right-handed hitters, he often misses wide when aiming for the outside corner. By miss, I mean a couple of times I’ve seen McClanahan throw it straight to the backstop.
But when McClanahan is in rhythm and able to spot his fastball, his pure stuff is something teams can dream on. This is a pitcher which scouts will tell you to stay away from early in the draft, and then the White Sox take them, and those scouts change their tune because of the respect they have for Don Cooper’s ability to correct pitchers like McClanahan.
Brady Singer was at the top of many preseason MLB draft lists. He is having a very good season with 46 innings pitched over seven starts with a 2.74 ERA and 50 strikeouts to eight walks. I love his two-seam fastball and his changeup has made great strides. Why he isn’t number one on my list is because Mize has just been better than Singer, and Singer’s breaking pitches are average. Often they get hung up in the zone and would be punished in the minor leagues. Singer can get away with it now but he has to learn how to get more snap with that pitch or use it in a different manner. Auburn will be visiting Gainesville April 26-28th. Perhaps facing Mize will help elevate Singer’s play to what we saw from last year’s College World Series.
Logan Gilbert hails from the same program as Cory Kluber and Jacob DeGrom. Not entirely sure if he’ll reach their level of quality but Gilbert has been building hype since the summer in Cape Cod and is pitching well this college season. In seven starts, Gilbert has 69 strikeouts in 48 innings pitched while limiting the walks to just 13. Watching video of DeGrom, he has a mid-90’s fastball that he pairs with a breaking pitch that from the video looks like a slider.
Obviously, a card with all 50s and 55s doesn’t get you super excited for a top-10 pick from a mid-major college, but for a club that wants quick-moving help with a high probability of appearing in a big-league rotation in short order, Gilbert would be arguably the safest college arm on the board.
7. Ethan Hankins, RHP – Forsyth Central High
Ethan Hankins would be higher on this list if it weren’t missing time because of shoulder issues. If the shoulder checks out, Hankins could be a Top-3 pick in this year’s draft. For Team USA, Hankins dominated in 12 innings striking out 27 to three walks only allowing three hits and one earned run. Very good velocity on his fastball as scouts say it sits in the mid-90’s, but that slider is something to marvel at.
8. Nander De Sedas, SS – Montverde Academy (HS)
I have been beating the Nander De Sedas drum for a while. A switch-hitting high school shortstop that displays power from both sides and scouts are delighted about his advanced approach at the plate. The concern is his ability to stay at shortstop. Does he have the food speed to meet the necessary range teams are looking for from their shortstops? That’s a question De Sedas will have to work on answering and there is a good video he shot with Perfect Game USA about how he works on his defense.
— Perfect Game USA (@PerfectGameUSA) March 30, 2018
9. Nick Madrigal, 2B – Oregon State
I often wonder what Madrigal’s numbers would be if he didn’t break his wrist sliding into home plate earlier this season. All the second baseman has done since arriving at Corvallis is hit.
- Freshman year: .333/.380/.456
- Sophomore year: .380/.449/.532
- Junior year (6 games): .560/.593/.880
A lot of eyes will be on Madrigal when he heals up from his injury to see if it impacts his swing. Without a doubt, Madrigal is the best college bat in this draft class. The problem is his size that limits him to second base. Looking at the top prospects with a White Sox lense, would that deter them from selecting Madrigal having Yoan Moncada occupy that position for the next six to seven years? Time will tell but if the White Sox continue their trend of going with college bats early in the draft, Madrigal should be towards the top of their board.
10. Alec Bohm, 3B – Wichita State
You can fill up a balloon and fly across the Atlantic ocean with the amount of helium surrounding Wichita State’s Alec Bohm’s draft status. I think the rise in hype is that there are so few impact college bats. Duke’s Griffin Conine is not hitting all that well. Missouri State’s Jeremy Eierman is starting to rebound but was slow out of the gates. South Alabama’s Travis Swaggerty is still performing well but is not better than he did last year. I expect Conine, Eierman, and Swaggerty to go in the first round, but it’s Bohm that has passed them. A third baseman, Bohm has excellent size at 6’5″ 220 lbs that fits into a power profile bat. He’s improved on understanding the strike zone with an uptick in walks (20) while reducing strikeouts (9) with an impressive slash line of .347/.471/.653 with seven home runs and eight doubles. Watching Bohm play Wednesday night against Oklahoma State, he finished the night going 2-for-5 with both hits going for a single. Doing a nice job of going back up the middle on pitches located in the outer half of the plate. Bohm is worth keeping an eye on because with Jake Burger’s Achilles injury. Going back-to-back drafts selecting a third baseman would be weird but if Burger has to move over to first base after the injury, the Sox could slot Bohm in their future plans.
Circle May 11th on your calendar. It’ll be Shane McClanahan vs. Alec Bohm as South Florida comes to town. That’ll be a fun test for both.