Scouting Reports For Every 2019 MLB Draft First Round Selection
MLB Draft Results By Pick
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After leading Oregon State to a College World Series title as a sophomore, Rutschman entered the 2019 draft season as the consensus top player, and the Beavers' backstop has done nothing but cement himself in that spot over the past year. Oregon State’s leading hitter during the 2018 College World Series, Rutschman then joined USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team in the summer, when he led all hitters in each triple slash category, hitting .355/.432/.516. This spring, Rutschman has taken another step forward offensively, doubly impressive when you consider he hit .408/.505/.628 with nine home runs as a sophomore in 2018. This season, he’s tapped into more of his plus raw power while also significantly boosting his walk rate. Opposing pitchers have often pitched around Rutschman this season, although the 6-foot-2, 216-pound backstop rarely expands the zone and has consistently kept his strikeout rate near 14 percent over his three seasons in the Pac-12. Rutschman has plus power from both sides of the plate, with his righthanded stroke just a bit shorter than his swing from the left side. He makes adjustments well at the plate, and while his 2017 summer in the Cape Cod League wasn’t ideal (.164/.282/.179 in 20 games), scouts have seen him do enough damage with Team USA to remain more than confident in his ability with a wood bat. Overall, Rutschman projects as a future .300 hitter. Defensively, Rutschman has all the tools to be a plus defender at the position. He has a strong arm, impressive receiving and blocking ability and excellent footwork on throws to second base, with a quick exchange from his glove to his release. Some scouts would like to have seen Rutschman throw more frequently this spring, but teams have run against him infrequently—and for good reason. Like most catchers, speed is Rutschman’s weakest tool and the only tool that doesn’t project as plus, but that’s hardly a concern moving forward. Most scouts believe Rutschman has a chance to be an All-Star-level player in the majors as an impact bat in the middle of the order while also bringing plenty of defensive value. With excellent makeup and plenty of natural leadership traits, Rutschman has all the intangibles teams like to see from their backstops. He is the best catching prospect since Buster Posey in 2008 and Matt Wieters in 2007.
Witt Jr. has been famous for years, and not just because he’s the son of Bobby Witt, the No. 3 overall pick in the 1985 draft and a 16-year major league righthander. The younger Witt may equal or better where his father was picked, which would make them the highest-drafted father-son pairing ever. Witt has been expected near the top the 2019 draft class for years thanks to his size, speed and power. Last summer, he showed excellent power potential but also raised questions about his hit tool as he showed more swing-and-miss than evaluators would have liked. This spring, admittedly against lesser competition, Witt has shown a better approach and more bat-to-ball skills. He’s using the entire field more and staying more balanced at the plate, where in the past he showed a tendency to get a little pull happy and collapse his backside during his swing. Witt shows a solid awareness of the strike zone—when he got into trouble last summer it was because he was swinging and missing at pitches in the zone rather than expanding it. He has plus power that projects for 20-plus home runs at the big league level and potentially even more in the current overheated major league power environment. At shortstop, Witt is the top defender in the class and a future plus defender with elite hands, quick feet and a plus arm. He shows the ability to throw from multiple arm slots and make plays going to both his right and left with excellent throwing accuracy. He’s a plus runner who can impact the game on the bases. Scouts have long raved about his makeup and several said that his work ethic and drive will help him get the most out of his considerable tools. Witt will turn 19 years old right after the draft, so he is older for the class. He is seen as both a high-floor player as well as someone with one of the highest ceilings in the class because of his well-rounded toolset and strong odds of sticking at shortstop. If he is even a .230 or .240 hitter, he should have a lengthy big league career because of his defensive ability at shortstop, speed and power. If he proves to be an average or better hitter, he could become a franchise-caliber player.
Vaughn put up one of the best offensive seasons in Cal history in 2018, hitting .402/.531/.819 with 23 home runs (tying a single-season school record previously set by Xavier Nady in 1999) to win the 2018 Golden Spikes Award. That campaign proved Vaughn had arguably the best combination of hit and power tools of any prospect in the 2019 draft class. And while Vaughn had a quiet summer with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team in 2018, hitting just .224/.316/.367 in 10 games, he still has an excellent wood bat track record, as evidenced by his .308/.368/.654 slash line in the Cape Cod League last summer. Vaughn has an idyllic righthanded swing with the requisite bat speed and strength needed to allow scouts to peg him as a plus hitter with 80-grade raw power. He takes a professional approach to batting practice and works the ball to all fields before games, rather than simply pulling the ball and trying to hit home runs as often as possible. In games, however, Vaughn has no issues going over the fence to the right-center field gap or turning on pitches inside with easy impact. In addition to his feel for the barrel and ability to hit with authority, Vaughn has an uncanny understanding of the strike zone. His batting eye rivals any player in the country, and as a sophomore he walked 44 times compared to just 18 strikeouts. He has continued to walk at an impressive rate in 2019, and he’s still walking more than he’s striking out, although his strikeout rate is up as well. Still, Vaughn’s advanced feel to hit, power and plate discipline should allow him to become an impact hitter in the middle of a major league lineup, while also allowing him to rise through the minors quickly. Standing at 6 feet, 214 pounds and being a righthanded hitter and thrower, Vaughn doesn’t have the typical profile of a top-five pick. In fact, only four right-right first baseman under 6 feet tall have played more than 20 games in the majors since the integration era began in 1947. In spite of that, Vaughn’s bat is special enough to give him a chance to become the highest-drafted college first baseman since 1996, when the Twins took San Diego State first baseman Pat Burrell with the No. 2 overall pick. Teams might be critical of Vaughn’s defense because he is undersized for the position, but he moves well and has solid hands. While he’s unlikely to ever be a Gold Glove defender, he should be more than capable of handling the position and making all the routine plays.
Bleday entered his junior season in 2019 as one of the most respected college hitters in the country. After pacing the Commodores in hitting during his sophomore season last spring (.368/.494/.511), Bleday went to the Cape Cod League. There, he showed solid power and hitting ability with a wood bat, posting a .311/.374/.500 slash line with five home runs in 36 games. With a balanced stance, smooth swing, solid bat speed and a refined approach with more walks than strikeouts in his college career, Bleday had the look of a high-floor hitter with a plus hit tool. However, there were initially some questions surrounding his ability to consistently impact the baseball. Bleday has answered those question this spring, as he has regularly tapped into the plus raw power that he’d previously been unable to reach during games. After hitting just six home runs through his first 90 games with Vanderbilt in 2017 and 2018, Bleday is among the country’s leaders in home runs in 2019. He hit 20 home runs through his first 41 games—upping his isolated power from .143 as a sophomore to over .420 as a junior—while continuing to post impressive strikeout and walk rates. Bleday’s power surge has increased his draft stock, going from a likely first-round corner outfield prospect with an impressive track record of hitting to one of the best impacts bats in the class and a player who should be selected at the top of the first round. Defensively, Bleday moves well and could handle center field in a pinch, but he profiles best as a corner outfielder—where his newfound power should allow him to succeed.
The best pure hitter in the prep class, Greene entered the 2019 draft cycle as one of the most highly regarded bats and he has done nothing to dispel those notions during high-profile events throughout the summer and into the fall. He’s hit top-level pitching so consistently that some teams have pegged him as a future 70-grade hitter, which is rare for prep bats. Greene has a slightly wide stance and a small hitch in is swing, but he has plenty of bat speed—more than enough to prevent it from being a potential red flag. He has a patient approach, and while there is some swing-and-miss in his game, Greene does a good job of working the count until he gets a pitch he can drive. Greene currently has solid power, but that should turn into plus power in the future as he continues to add strength to a still-lanky, 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame. While Greene has perhaps the most complete hitting package of the entire high school class, his supplemental tools leave something to be desired. He plays center field for his Florida high school team, but he is a below-average runner and will quickly move to a corner outfield position at the next level. Greene gets solid jumps on fly balls, but he lacks the closing speed necessary to make the in-between plays that major league center fielders are expected to handle. He should be able to play either left or right field, however, thanks to his average arm strength. In total, Greene doesn’t project to add much defensive value, but a team drafting Greene is taking him for his bat, which should allow him to become a middle-of-the-order threat. Greene is committed to Florida.
A unanimous first-team selection on the 2019 Preseason All-America team, scouts have long been enamored with Abrams’ elite athleticism, running ability and bat-to-ball skills from the left side. A 6-foot-2, 180-pound shortstop out of Georgia, Abrams’ standout tool is his running ability. An 80-grade runner, Abrams gets out of the batter’s box well and posts sub-4.00 second run times regularly. He has impressive instincts and routinely gets solid jumps on the base paths as well. Abrams pairs that speed with a line-drive oriented swing from the left side, and he has tremendous feel for putting the barrel on the baseball. He rarely swings and misses, and because of those skills scouts think Abrams could become a plus hitter. He still has plenty of work to do in regards to pitch selection and developing a real plan of attack, however, and at times Abrams has shown a tendency to get overly aggressive in the box and chase pitches out of the zone. He has below-average raw power at the moment and scouts have questioned his power potential at times, but he has improved his strength enough to the point that it would be fair to project average power in the future as he continues to fill out. It also wouldn’t be shocking if Abrams eventually reaches above-average power because of his impressive hand-eye coordination and ability to consistently put the barrel on the ball in today’s home run-friendly environment at the Triple-A and major league levels. Either way, he should get plenty of extra-base hits thanks to his running ability. Where scouts are most conflicted on Abrams is his future defensive home. He made center field look tremendously easy during his time with USA Baseball’s 18U National Team last fall (when he also hit .297/.395/.324 in nine games), and he projects as a plus defender in the outfield. But he also has a chance to stick at shortstop, where he has quick footwork, plus range, solid glovework and adequate arm strength. He’ll need to improve his throwing accuracy if he wants to stay on the dirt, as well as his ability to throw from multiple angles and arm slots, but he’s shown the ability to do all of those things at time. Now, it’s just a matter of consistency. He should be given every opportunity to play shortstop at the next level, with the excellent fallback option of becoming a premium defensive center fielder. In all, there’s still some polishing to do with Abrams, but he brings tremendous upside as a potential table-setter at the top of the lineup with plus defensive potential at multiple premium positions. Abrams is committed to Alabama, but he is expected to go off the board quickly this June.
A first-team Preseason All-American, Lodolo is one of the few high-profile college pitching prospects with a long track record of starting in college. After the Pirates drafted Lodolo with the 41st overall pick in 2016 but failed to sign him, Lodolo made his way to Texas Christian, where he started 15 games as both as freshman and sophomore. Despite his durability, Lodolo was more solid than spectacular, posting a 4.35 ERA in 2017 and a 4.32 mark in 2018. He allowed more hits than scouts expected given his solid stuff, capped off by allowing more than 9.3 hits per nine innings as a sophomore. Lodolo has taken an impressive step forward as a junior, however. A 6-foot-6, 180-pound lefthander who still has room to fill out, Lodolo has pitched mostly off of two pitches this spring—a low-90s fastball that touches 94-95 mph with solid running life out of a lower arm slot and a sweepy breaking ball that flashes the makings of a plus pitch but needs more consistency. As a sophomore, Lodolo regularly showcased a changeup that had plus potential as well, but as his fastball command improved this spring (his walk rate went from 3.27 walks per nine innings in 2017 to 1.65 per nine through his first 10 starts in 2019), he has used the changeup less often. Lodolo’s stuff isn’t quite as loud as the typical top college starter of a draft class, but he is a high-probability major leaguer with above-average control of three pitches that are current average offerings but could be plus pitches in the future. He still has more projection than the typical three-year collegiate arm thanks to a lean body that can add more weight, and he was one of the best performers in the country through his first seven starts of the season before hitting a slight speed bump in April. Lodolo is a no-doubt starter who has proven to be a reliable Big 12 arm, but he profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation starter more than a No. 1 or No. 2 starter in the majors.
Jung has been one of the most productive players in college baseball over the past three seasons. He was a first-team Freshman All-American in 2017 and a second-team All-American as a sophomore in 2018. His junior season has failed to reach the heights of his sophomore campaign, largely because he’s not flirting with a .400 batting average. But even if his offensive statistics have dipped, scouts remain comfortable that Jung can be an above-average or plus hitter in the future. He is big and strong, but his approach at the plate emphasizes hitting for average over power. He has a solid awareness of the strike zone and is happy to work deep in counts. Falling behind doesn’t seem to bother him either, as he’s shown he can work back from disadvantaged counts. When Jung does get a quality pitch to hit, his swing is geared to drive the ball up the middle or to the right-center field gap. There are plenty of examples of hitters who learn how to pull the ball as pros, but without significant changes, Jung projects as having average power, at best. Some evaluators have concerns that part of his hit-over-power approach comes from his average bat speed. There are even larger debates among evaluators about his defense. Some scouts look at his tight hips and below-average foot speed and project he’ll have to move to a corner outfield spot or first base. But Jung has good hands, an accurate, plus arm and the ability to throw on the run. He also does an excellent job charging in on balls. This season, the Red Raiders have moved Jung to shortstop and he’s looked reasonably comfortable there, even if it’s not a position he’ll play as a pro. The most likely result is Jung ends up as an average third baseman. Jung’s plate discipline, strong arm and his lengthy track record of hitting make him a likely middle-of-the-first-round pick, although the questions surrounding his agility and power potential stand in the way of him being considered in the absolute top tier of this year’s college hitters.
In a typical draft class, Langeliers would be a safe bet as the top catching prospect in the class, but this year he’ll have to settle for the No. 2 spot behind Adley Rutschman. Langeliers has a well-rounded arsenal across the board, but his strengths are on defense, where he has plus arm strength and threw out nearly 70 percent of basestealers as a sophomore. He also handled plenty of premium pure stuff last summer with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and handled it well. Langeliers is a polished pitch-framer, and he moves well behind the plate and shows impressive blocking ability from his 6-foot, 190-pound frame. If Langeliers never hits, he still profiles as a solid backup option in today’s game that focuses on pitch-framing ability. But he does have potential as a hitter as well, despite a down sophomore season when Langeliers hit just .252/.351/.496. Scouts think he can become an average hitter thanks to a balanced swing and solid understanding of the strike zone. While Langeliers struggled to hit in 2018, he still got on base at a decent clip thanks to a 13 percent walk rate. Last summer, Langeliers was second on Team USA in hitting with a .346/.393/.500 line, and he has solid-average raw power, most of which comes easier to the pull side. A broken hamate bone forced Langeliers to miss parts of February and March this season, but he has hit well since returning. His .322/.366/.494 slash line through his first 20 games of conference play has given scouts further confidence that his 2018 season was more of an outlier than the norm. Langeliers defensive toolset is too appealing for him to fall much further than the middle of the first round, and depending on how a team views his offensive upside, he could go among the top-15 picks.
The younger brother of Mariners prospect Braden Bishop, Hunter was a highly regarded prospect out of high school thanks to an exciting package of athleticism, power and speed. Scouts were concerned with the quality of his hit tool at the time, so Bishop chose to attend Arizona State rather than sign with the Padres as a 24th-round pick in 2016. The move paid off, as Bishop has vaulted himself into high first-round consideration following a breakout junior campaign. After a solid freshman season in 2017, when he hit .301/.363/.484, Bishop struggled as a sophomore, hitting .250/.352/.407 with a 30 percent strikeout rate, which continued to raise questions about his hitting ability. This spring, Bishop has tweaked his approach at the plate and quieted his mechanics in the lefthanded batter’s box. The move has helped him significantly cut his strikeout rate and consistently tap into his plus-plus raw power, homering 17 times through his first 38 games. Bishop has a high-hand setup in the box, but he has solid plate coverage and improved plate discipline. He showed solid strike zone awareness in the Cape Cod League last summer, but he was too passive at times early in the count, which forced him into frequent pitcher’s counts. That hasn’t been the case this spring, and scouts are impressed with his adjustments to the point where they can now project him as an average hitter with 70-grade power. Bishop plays center field for the Sun Devils and has a chance to stick there, despite a large, 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame, thanks to plus running ability and good reads off the bat. However, it is rare for a player that tall to get regular time in center field at the major league level, and he might be better suited for a corner outfield spot, where he has above-average defensive potential with solid arm strength. Bishop has done more to improve his draft status than any of the players ranked near him this spring, and he is among the highest-upside college hitters because of his impressive collection of plus tools and exciting athleticism. A talented high school football player, Bishop is also praised for his mental toughness and ability to work through difficult situations off the field. His mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s when he was in high school, and he and his brother Braden raise money through their “4MOM” foundation that is trying to find a cure for the disease.
Manoah split time between starting and relieving during his first two seasons with West Virginia, but after a stellar campaign as a starter in the Cape Cod League last summer—when he posted a 2.70 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 33.1 innings—Manoah has made a successful transition to a full-time starting role this spring. Through his first 12 starts this season, Manoah has been one of the more dominant arms in the country, posting a 2.07 ERA with 108 strikeouts over his first 82.2 innings (11.76 strikeouts per nine innings) and the lowest walk rate (2.29 per nine) of his career. Manoah mostly works off of two pitches—a power fastball that sits in the mid- to upper 90s and a hard slider that projects as a second plus pitch. While Monoah has shown a changeup at times, he’s mostly been a two-pitch starter this season. He also entered the season with significant reliever risk because of his erratic control, large, 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame and questionable athleticism. However, he has started pitching exclusively out of the stretch and, as a result, has improved his strike-throwing ability enough to give him a real shot of sticking as a starter in pro ball. But while his walk rate is down significantly this season, Manoah still needs to refine his command—as evidenced by 17 hit batters over his first 12 starts—and teams will likely be concerned with how well he is able to manage his body moving forward. This list of major league starting pitchers who have had success at or near Manoah’s size is a short one, with CC Sabathia, Aaron Harang, Justin Masterson and Michael Pineda some of the names who qualify. Still, Manoah’s stuff compares nicely with most of the pitchers in the 2019 class, and he’s steadily improved his draft stock with each start. Manoah should be one of the first college pitchers drafted this June.
One of the best pure hitters in the draft class, Baty brings 70-grade raw power to the table with impressive strength and plus bat speed. He also has an advanced approach at the plate and a feel for putting the barrel on the ball. In every batting practice Baty takes, his power stands out. The ease with which he’s able to send the ball out of the park, both to the pull side and to the opposite field, rivals nearly any player in the 2019 draft. A big, 6-foot-3, 218-pound third baseman, Baty has improved his body composition over the past few years, turning some of his baby fat into muscle, which has helped improve his game both offensively and defensively. Originally, most scouts believed that Baty was destined for a transition to first base in pro ball because of his below-average footwork, suspect hands and a plus throwing arm that had strength but was erratic with a slow exchange. He’s improved across the board defensively this spring, now giving himself a chance to stick at third base, but winding up at first base may still be the most likely outcome. He’s hit anything and everything thrown at him in a competitive area of Texas, but the biggest knock on Baty’s profile is his age. He’ll be just six months away from his 20th birthday at the time of the draft, and he is one of the oldest high school players in the class. Many teams operate with draft models that significantly penalize hitters for that, although at some point it’s hard to ignore Baty’s potential as a middle-of-the-order hitter—no matter his age or position. Baty is committed to Texas, but he is unlikely to make it to campus and could be drafted early on Day 1 of the draft.
One of the biggest pop-up players in the 2019 class, Cavaco wasn’t seen much over last year’s summer showcase circuit, though a few scouts saw him in the fall and were intrigued by his exciting toolset. Cavaco started turning heads quickly this spring, gaining the attention of crosscheckers and scouting directors thanks to a projectable, 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame and plus power. Cavaco has a chance to reach 70-grade power as he continues to fill out, but big power isn’t his only selling point. He’s currently an above-average runner with above-average defensive ability at third base, and he has plus arm strength as well. With above-average or better tools across the board, Cavaco offers plenty of upside, but his hitting ability is his biggest question mark and where teams are most split. Without an extensive track record, scouts are unsure how his bat will consistently play against high-level pitching. He has plus bat speed, but scouts have seen him swing and miss against average high school pitching a bit too much, and he currently doesn’t have the best plate coverage on the outer half. Cavaco has the tools to go as high as the back of the first round, but it might take a team with multiple Day 1 picks or a more optimistic report on his future hit tool to draft him that high given his lack of track record. He is committed to San Diego State.
After hitting an impressive .333/.405/.474 over his first two seasons with Nevada-Las Vegas, Stott was the USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team starting shortstop last summer—always a good indicator for a player’s draft pedigree. Entering the summer, Team USA coaches believed they were getting an offensive-inclined shortstop who needed some work on the defensive end. However, Stott impressed the staff with his glovework, showing impressive footwork and body control along with accurate throws to the bag. Yet scouts left the summer with conflicting thoughts regarding Stott’s bat, as he showed good bat-to-ball skills but too often with a slap-heavy, low-impact swing. Questions have been raised about his potential offensive upside in spite of the numbers he had posted in the Mountain West Conference, but Stott quickly showed he was more than just a slap hitter early this spring. He’s more consistently tapped into his all-fields power by getting his lower half more into his swing and increasing his strength. That power uptick has come with more swing-and-miss (14 percent strikeout rate through his first 41 games) and a higher walk rate (around 20 percent), but his strikeouts aren’t at a concerning level. Defensively, most scouts believe Stott can stick at shortstop, where he has a plus arm with accuracy and a reliable glove. But there are some who question the pure quickness and range in Stott’s game and believe he’ll wind up being a better fit for third base, where his arm would fit just fine. Stott will record plus run times to first base at times, but scouts believe he’s closer to an average runner who could transition into a fringe-average runner as he puts on more weight. Regardless, Stott should be one of the first college shortstops off the board.
A third-team Preseason All-American behind fellow shortstops Logan Davidson (first team) and Bryson Stott (second team), Wilson has been one of the most consistent hitters in the ACC the last three seasons. After hitting .300/.377/.504 as a freshman, Wilson has steadily increased his production each season. Through 39 games as a junior, he posted a .333/.412/.667 slash line with a team-high 13 home runs and a career-best 11.8 percent walk rate. The calling card with Wilson is his hitting ability. He has produced everywhere he’s played and projects as a 60 hitter with plus raw power despite a smaller, 6-foot, 184-pound frame. Those offensive tools would suggest a superstar as an ACC shortstop, but Wilson’s supplemental tools are lacking. While he’s handled shortstop for the Wolfpack, most scouts believe his below-average running ability and lack of a quick first step will eventually push him to second base, where he should be a solid defender. His arm likely fits better at the keystone as well, and last summer with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, Wilson played second base while Stott handled the shortstop duties. There are some questions regarding how easily Wilson will be able to tap into his power with a wood bat, as he has a limited track record in that regard and didn’t make much impact in his 24 at-bats with Team USA over the summer. There’s also some swing-and-miss in Wilson’s game, but it’s hard to find a scout who doesn’t believe in his bat and most scouts laud Wilson’s makeup and baseball IQ.
Carroll wowed scouts all summer by dominating at the plate in almost every high-profile event he attended. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound outfielder plays above his size in every facet of the game. He has a polished hit tool and a terrific feel for the strike zone with a patient approach in the batter’s box. Carroll has no problem spitting on pitches just outside the zone and taking a walk, and then he can wreck havoc with his plus speed and advanced feel for running the bases. While Carroll is short, he isn’t small, with a solid frame and improved strength to the point where he could project for at least average power. Carroll’s speed plays in the outfield as well, where he is one of the best defensive center fielders in the class. Scouting directors voted Carroll as best prep defender in the class during the preseason thanks to excellent jumps and efficient route running. Some teams question his arm strength, and it was previously fringe-average, though reports on his throwing this spring have continued to improve as he’s gotten stronger. There are very few holes to speak of in Carroll’s game, although his size and some of the comparisons he’s gotten to Phillies prospect Mickey Moniak, who has struggled since being the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, might give some teams pause. Still, Carroll has shown more impact ability than Moniak did at the same age. He is also praised for his excellent makeup, high baseball IQ and impressive work ethic. Carroll’s all-around package and polish could allow him to become the highest-drafted Washington high schooler this century, passing Reese McGuire (2013) and Travis Snider (2006), who were both selected with the 14th overall pick. Carroll is committed to UCLA.
Rutledge entered the season as the second-ranked junior college prospect in the class after fellow righthander Carter Stewart because of his high school pedigree, tantalizing raw stuff and imposing, 6-foot-8, 260-pound frame. Out of high school, Rutledge had a solid, 90-93 mph fastball with impressive sinking life, but he needed to improve both his secondaires and overall control. Rutledge threw just 15.2 innings as a freshman at Arkansas before going down with a season-ending hip injury. Following the season, he decided to transfer to San Jacinto (Texas) JC and expected to enter the 2020 draft as a Kentucky commit. Those plans changed, however, when Rutledge came out this spring showing some of the best pure stuff of any pitcher in the country with improved control. Rutledge has regularly been into the upper 90s with his fastball, and he has held that velocity into the sixth and seventh innings of his starts throughout the season. In addition, he’s shown a pair of plus breaking balls in both a slider and curveball. Previously, Rutledge threw a hybrid breaking ball that was more slurve-like, but after interning with Pro Pitching Performance last summer (while he rehabbed from injury) Rutledge worked to differentiate those pitches with Rapsodo feedback and now has two distinct, swing-and-miss breaking pitches. He also has a changeup that could be a fourth above-average offering. While he isn’t facing the strongest competition, Rutledge struck out 123 batters through his first 12 starts and 77.2 innings (14.25 strikeouts per nine) this spring, with just 28 walks (3.25 walks per nine). Since his time in high school, Rutledge has significantly shortened his arm action. It’s now a incredibly tight and compact delivery, to the point that some scouts wonder how he’s able to generate and maintain his velocity. The upgrade in arm action has allowed him to improve his control, but scouts think he’ll need to continue refining his command when he faces stiffer competition at the pro level. Regardless, his pure stuff and the deception he creates with his delivery should give him plenty of room for error as he climbs the ladder. Rutledge has the upside of a No. 2 starter, but he carries some reliever risk due to his size and history of control problems.
Priester stands out for being a 6-foot-3 prep righthander who has excellent physical projection and advanced strike-throwing capabilities. He has good arm action from a three-quarter arm slot and an easy delivery. Although his delivery lacks flaws, scouts have questioned the quickness of his movements throughout the motion. His fastball sits in the low 90s with good life, but he has topped out at 96 mph this spring. His main secondary offering is a curveball that has good shape and flashes future plus potential. His third pitch is a changeup that lags behind his curveball. Priester hasn’t received much formal pitching instruction to this point, which makes him exceptionally intriguing considering his success and also speaks to his high aptitude for the game. He self-taught himself some of the mechanical details of the game by watching YouTube videos of pitchers he admired and wanted to emulate. While prep arms always have risk associated with them, Priester has the ingredients of a starting pitcher with big upside and has received enough helium this spring to perhaps land in the first round. Priester is committed to Texas Christian.
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.
One of the best strike-throwers in the country, Kirby formed an impressive one-two combination with righthander Kyle Brnovich at Elon this spring. Kirby is the higher-rated draft prospect, however, due to his slew of starter’s traits and solid four-pitch mix. While there are pitchers with louder pure stuff than the 6-foot-4, 201-pound righthander, Kirby is among the most likely 2019 draft prospects to make a major league impact because of his clean arm action and plus command. Through 11 starts and 71.2 innings this spring, Kirby had struck out 84 hitters and walked just five, which ranked as the best strikeout-to-walk ratio (16.8) in the country. While some scouts will critique the level of competition that Kirby faced in the Colonial Athletic Association and don’t expect him to miss many bats against better competition, it’s impossible to ignore his strike-throwing ability. There’s also his impressive 2018 in the Cape Cod League, where Kirby worked as a reliever and posted a 1.38 ERA over 13 innings, striking out 24 and walking only one. Kirby’s fastball has reached as high as 97 mph in the past, but this spring he’s worked mostly in the low 90s while touching 94-95 mph consistently. His fastball grades out as a plus offering because of his ability to spot it to both sides of the plate and elevate it when necessary. Kirby throws a curveball and a slider, and both pitches will flash plus at times, but they lack consistency right now and might be average pitches, at best, in a starting role. Kirby’s top offspeed pitch could be his mid-80s changeup, which he throws with conviction and consistently lands in the bottom of the strike zone. Kirby looks the part of a solid, middle- to back-of-the-rotation starter, and he should be selected in the middle of the first round this June.
A lanky, 6-foot-4, 190-pound shortstop, Shewmake can handle any infield position but started all 61 games at shortstop for Texas A&M as a sophomore and has continued to hold down the position as a junior in 2019. He’s been among the most consistent hitters in the SEC over his three collegiate seasons, starting with a loud freshman campaign when he hit .328/.374/.529 with 11 home runs and 11 stolen bases and was voted first-team all-SEC. He has continued to hit at a high level, although Shewmake has not replicated his power numbers from his freshman season. Scouts wonder when he will start to physically fill out his frame and begin hitting for more power. He has good bat speed and some twitchiness with his hands at the plate, but he’ll eventually need to add more strength to tap into additional power with a wood bat. He struggled in 44 at-bats for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team last summer (.136/.250/.205), though his track record in the SEC will likely be emphasized compared to a much smaller sample with a wood bat. Defensively, Shewmake has all of the intangibles necessary to play shortstop, and he is a terrific in-game leader with athleticism. However, if he does begin to fill out physically, he has a chance to outgrow the position, and he doesn’t currently have the hands of an everyday, major league shortstop. Because of those concerns, many scouts are mixed as to where Shewmake fits best, defensively. He’s a plus runner who could handle all three outfield positions, if necessary, but teams will likely look to keep him in the infield before running him out to the grass. Shewmake is something of a conundrum to teams who view him as a player with a skillset that’s greater than his tools, and he might be best served in a super-utility role down the line. Either way, his track record of hitting should have him selected on Day 1 of the draft, and there’s more projection here if and when he starts to fill out physically.
A late-rising high school prospect in the 2017 draft class, Jones ranked No. 75 on the 2017 BA 500 thanks to his elite speed, plus throwing arm and potential as a switch-hitter. Ultimately, Jones made it to campus at UNC Wilmington due to his lack of track record and the fact that he was older for the class. Now a draft-eligible sophomore, Jones has the same collection of tantalizing tools but is putting together a strong spring with the bat after a mediocre freshman season (.278/.412/.370). Scouts questioned Jones’ hit tool prior to this spring, especially after he struggled in the Cape Cod League last summer with a strikeout rate close to 30 percent. This spring, however, Jones has cut his whiff rate down to 13 percent through 47 games, striking out 29 times compared to 40 walks. He’s hit for more power in games as well, although he does most of his damage via doubles and triples. His 80-grade speed has also shown up on the base paths, where he has 31 stolen bases through his first 38 attempts. Jones didn’t play shortstop at the beginning of the season while he was dealing with shoulder soreness, but even when he got back to the position scouts wondered if he had the skill to stay there at the next level. He has the plus arm strength, range and athleticism to handle shortstop, but he lacks consistency and focus, often struggling on routine plays with questionable hands. He could be a plus defender in center field with his current skill set, and many scouts will submit him to their teams as an outfielder rather than a shortstop. Jones’ upside is tremendous, and he could grow into above-average raw power as he fills out his 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame with plenty of bat speed from both sides.
A 35th-round pick of the Rockies out of high school, Toglia hit seven home runs in the Cape Cod League last summer to set himself up for a big junior year. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound switch-hitter struggled with his timing early in the season, but he got red-hot the final month and was batting .316 with 16 doubles, 16 home runs and a .633 slugging percentage through the last day of regionals. Toglia has an easy swing from both sides of the plate with power to all fields. When his approach and swing are right, Toglia turns around high-end velocity and looks the part of a potential 30-home run hitter. He has had some dry spells when he gets too passive and allows his front side to drift, which causes him to lack hip rotation and leads to inconsistency with his swing plane. Toglia is athletic and has the tools to be a plus defender at first base or an above-average defender in the corner outfield. His power potential and athleticism bode well for his future, but scouts have some concerns about the swing-and-miss and inconsistency Toglia’s game, especially as he advances to the next level.
No pitcher—high school or college—has as much upside as Georgia righthander Daniel Espino in the 2019 draft. His pure stuff is the loudest of any arm in the class thanks to a fastball that is routinely in the upper 90s and has touched 99-100 mph several times throughout the summer and spring. But it isn’t just elite velocity that makes Espino’s fastball tick, as the pitch, at times, has riding life to his arm side and cutting action to his glove side. After his fastball, Espino has two seperate breaking balls that look like plus pitches. His curveball sits in the mid-70s, and his slider is thrown in the low 80s. Both have sharp, late-breaking action and are legitimate swing-and-miss offerings when combined with his 80-grade fastball. Espino also throws a firm, upper-80s changeup that has some potential and flashes the look of a solid-average offering, but the pitch will need further refinement. Just grading out the tools, there are only a handful of players who would make sense to be listed above Espino in any draft ranking, but teams are split on the prep righthander because of an unconventional arm action, reliever risk and the recent poor track record of high school pitchers who throw as hard as Espino does at such a young age. Espino’s arm action is long, and while his control is solid, scouts believe that he’ll need to refine his command at the next level, where hitters won’t be as likely to chase secondaries out of the strike zone. Scouts have also noted that Espino’s stuff and control are both better when he pitches on longer rest and question how he will perform when he is throwing on a pro schedule. For those who don’t knock Espino quite as hard for his arm action, it’s easy to point to his elite lower-half strength and mechanics to show why he’ll be able to hold up in the future and avoid unnecessary stress on both his elbow and shoulder. The Panamanian-born pitcher gets off the rubber with tremendous force and has solid athleticism and body control, keeping his upper and lower half synced up. Those high on Espino will point to him having the best stuff in the country and the upside of a front-of-the-rotation starter, while those lower on him will see a 6-foot high school righthander with an unconventional arm action and significant risk to end up in the bullpen. Those factors lead to a wide range of potential landing spots in the draft for the Louisiana State commit.
A 6-foot-4, 200-pound third baseman with Tulane, Hoese has broken out in his junior season in the American Athletic Conference. After hitting a combined five home runs over his freshman and sophomore seasons, Hoese has managed 19 homers as of April 16—more than any hitter in the country. In that 36-game stretch, Hoese has managed a .409/.500/.879 slash line with more walks (24) than strikeouts (16). However, teams will be plenty skeptical of Hoese on draft day considering his track record prior to this season, and the fact that he’s a fringe-average defender at third base. Most of his value is tied to his bat, and with a pair of mediocre wood-bat summer performances, a team taking him on Day 1 or early Day 2 will have to be confident his 2019 season is more indicative of his talent.
One of the most exciting, projectable arms in the 2019 class, teams were aware of Walston last summer but weren’t able to see him much on the showcase circuit due to his commitments as a talented high school quarterback. Listed at 6-foot-4, 172-pounds, Walston is a thin lefthander with an immensely projectable frame that could easily add 30-40 more pounds in the future. He has a clean arm action and delivery, and scouts note that his plus athleticism translates well to the mound, allowing him to be one of the best natural strike-throwers in the high school class. At the moment, Walston throws his fastball in the 86-91 mph range, topping out in the low 90s, but scouts are convinced that he’ll start to throw harder once he gains more physicality. He also has terrific feel to spin a breaking ball that projects as a plus pitch in the future, and he has shown a solid changeup as well. In a down year for high school lefthanders, Walston could see himself selected as soon as Day 1, although he is expected to be a tough sign out of his North Carolina State commitment. While there’s nothing plus with Walston right now, every element of his operation screams upside and plenty of high-level decision makers have laid eyes on him this spring.
Jensen started his career in the bullpen for Fresno State before transitioning to a starter’s role in 2018 with mixed results. His 2019 season has been much better, as Jensen became the Bulldogs’ Friday starter and helped lead the team to a Mountain West Conference championship with a 3.09 ERA over his first 84.1 innings. While Jensen stands at just 6 feet, 180 pounds, he has big-time stuff with a fastball that’s been as high as 98 mph. The pitch has plenty of life in the form of arm-side run and natural sink, and he pairs it with an impressive slider that scouts say flashes plus at times. He has also shown a changeup that has solid arm-side movement, but he’s primarily pitched off of his fastball/slider combination. Despite Jensen’s intriguing stuff, he hasn’t struck out as many batters as evaluators would expect. His 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings through his first 15 starts in 2019 is a career high, and he struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings during his first two seasons. This likely stems from Jensen’s control, which is scattered at times. Jensen struggles to spot his fastball due to the amount of movement on the pitch, and batters tend to see the ball well as Jensen has some length in the back of his arm stroke and throws from a standard three-quarter slot. Jensen should get a chance to start at the next level thanks to a viable third-pitch changeup, but some scouts believe he’d thrive in a bullpen role, where his fastball and slider could tick up and his fringe-average control wouldn’t be as much of an issue.
Small’s 2019 season was an excellent demonstration of how a pitcher can dramatically improve his draft stock by simply excelling week after week. When the season began, Small was seen as a potential fourth- to fifth-round pick as a durable and successful Southeastern Conference Friday starter with average stuff. The assessment of his pure stuff hasn’t changed all that much, but his control and command has ticked up and no one can deny the extremely impressive results. Small was second in Division I in strikeout rate (15 K/9) as of early May. A 26th-round pick of the D-Backs last year as a redshirt sophomore, Small has bounced back well from the Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2017 season. This season, opposing hitters have struggled to see and connect with his 89-92 mph fastball. Velocity-wise, the pitch average at best. But his delivery hides the ball well, and because of its movement and deception, it earns above-average grades from some scouts. Small’s delivery is long in the back, but he repeats it consistently. Much like Mariners’ lefthander Yusei Kikuchi, Small will vary the amount of time he hangs on the rubber before exploding toward home plate, which also messes with hitters’ timing. At times, Small can dominate college hitters pitching primarily off his fastball simply because he has plus command and plus control. Small fills the zone consistently, and he mixes in an average sluvy curveball as well. Small’s changeup was a better pitch in 2018 than it has been in 2019, when it’s been a fringe-average offering in most outings. There is reason to believe it can improve, however, since he’s shown more conviction and feel for the pitch in the past. Small doesn’t have a true plus pitch and projects as a No. 5 starter, but his command, control and consistency will likely push him into the second or third round.
A defensively gifted shortstop with physical projection and potential as a switch-hitter, Davidson ranked No. 131 on BA’s Top 500 Draft Prospects list in 2016. Since then, the son of six-year big leaguer Mark Davidson has continued to fill out physically and has built a dichotomous track record during his time in college. While playing for Clemson in the ACC, Davidson has looked like a legitimate first-round pick, having hit double-digit home runs and stolen at least 10 bases in each of his three seasons. Defensively, Davidson has a chance to stick at shortstop with plus arm strength and enough athleticism in his 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame. Yet, while Davidson has posted impressive power and speed numbers, his hit tool has always been a question mark. He’s never hit above .300 at Clemson, and his numbers with a wood bat in the Cape Cod League were poor. In two summers in the Cape, Davidson had an adjusted OPS+ of 58 (where 100 is average), which would be the third-lowest OPS+ for a player with at least 100 at-bats in the Cape Cod League the summer before his draft year since 2000. Current Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford is one of the few major league success stories to occur after struggling mightily in the Cape, and there are some similarities to be drawn with Davidson, though Crawford was seen as a much better defender at the time, while Davidson is a switch-hitter with more raw power. There is some length to Davidson’s swing, which leads to high strikeout rates. He’s whiffed between 18 and 22 percent of the time during each of his three seasons at Clemson and around 25 percent in the Cape Cod League, but his above-average speed and power allow him to provide offensive value despite a questionable hit tool. In the end, Davidson’s eventual landing spot will depend on how a team weighs his successful Clemson career with his Cape Cod track record. With a fair chance to remain at shortstop and a solid, all-around toolset, Davidson profiles as a safe first-round pick.
A smaller, 5-foot-11, 180-pound shortstop out of New Jersey, Volpe doesn’t overwhelm with tools or physicality, but he plays an extremely sound game both offensively and defensively. At the plate, Volpe has well below-average power from the right side, but he has a short swing with quick hands and is capable of spraying line drives to all fields. A solid-average runner during the summer showcase circuit, scouts have clocked better run times from Volpe this spring, to the point where he’s now considered an above-average runner. Volpe’s defensive ability is what sets him apart, however, as he has some of the most consistent and reliable hands in the class. He doesn’t have a huge arm or elite range, but Volpe’s instincts and overall feel for playing defense are extremely polished. He seems to make every play that comes to him—making the position look much easier than it actually is. Volpe has efficient footwork and gets around the ball well to put himself in solid positions to throw across the diamond, and he has no issues throwing from multiple angles, on the run or while turning a double play at second base. Because he is undersized and lacks a standout tool—though some scouts believe he’ll eventually be a plus hitter—Volpe could be tough to sign out of a Vanderbilt commitment. But he was arguably the highest-performing position player at USA Baseball’s National High School Invitational this spring, which came in front of plenty of scouting directions and could push him into Day 1 consideration. In addition to his skills on the field, Volpe is a natural, vocal leader, and he commands his teammates well from the shortstop position. He always plays with a frenetic, high energy that endears him to scouts as well.
The key cog in the middle of North Carolina’s lineup the last two seasons, Busch has an excellent feel for the barrel and a strong understanding of the strike zone. He walked in 16 percent of his plate appearances as a freshman and recorded a 17 percent walk rate as a sophomore, when he hit .317/.465/.521 with 13 home runs and 55 walks, the latter of which ranked 10th in the nation. While Busch has a solid feel for the strike zone, he also has 60-grade raw power and a strong track record of hitting. He’s produced in both the ACC and with a wood bat in the Cape Cod League, where he hit .322/.450/.567 with six home runs in 27 games last summer. While Busch is a plus defender at first base, he has played mostly left field during his junior season. He’s been perfectly acceptable in the outfield, but he remains a below-average runner with a long exchange on his throws, so he will likely never be a defensive asset in the outfield. Still, he showed he could make all the routine plays and not embarrass himself, or his team, in a corner outfield spot, if needed. Some scouts have wondered what Busch would look like as a second baseman, but his most natural defensive position is first base. While he’s undersized for the position at 6 feet and 207 pounds, he has shown enough promise with the bat to fit the profile. Busch should go off the board in the second half of the first round.
A 6-foot-1, 205-pound backstop for California, Lee raised his stock this spring with a career-best offensive campaign hitting behind standout first baseman Andrew Vaughn. After spending time at catcher, first base, third base and designated hitter as a sophomore, Lee has been the team’s primary catcher his junior season, and he hit .339/.415/.613 with 13 home runs and a team-best 52 RBIs through his first 47 games. Lee brings above-average power to the table from the right side, but until this spring scouts had questioned how much his bat would play. Lee is a good receiver behind the plate who has continued to improve his defensive ability with above-average arm strength.
Malone initially blew up on scouts’ radars as an underclassman and has long been thought of as one of the most talented pitchers in the 2019 draft class. He has an uber-projetable, 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame, a picturesque arm action and delivery, as well as well above-average pure stuff. His fastball trails only Georgia righthander Daniel Espino’s as the best fastball in the prep class, and Malone’s heater sits in the low to mid-90s, touching as high as 97 mph. The righthander also throws a curveball, slider and changeup. Throughout the summer, Malone displayed flashes of a plus breaking ball—at times with his slider and at other times with his curveball—but scouts lamented that fact that neither of his breaking balls show above-average or plus potential consistently. He would either struggle to get on top of his curveball regularly, or his slider would lack sharp biting action. This spring, Malone seems to have addressed those critiques, as he put on one of the best amatuer outings of the season at USA Baseball’s National High School Invitational. Pitching for IMG Academy (where he transferred to for his senior season after playing in North Carolina previously), Malone threw a seven-inning shutout and showcased an 80-83 mph slider that had late biting action and two-plane break. He used the pitch effectively against both righthanders and lefthanders, landing it in the zone for strikes and also using it as a chase pitch. Malone’s mid-70s curveball has 11-to-5 shape and could be an average or better offering in the future, depending on how he continues to improve his release point. His low-80s changeup has solid velocity separation from his fastball, and he throws the pitch with solid arm speed as well. Overall, Malone might have the best combination of current stuff and future projection of any prep pitcher in the 2019 draft class, and while he is committed to North Carolina, he should get drafted at some point in the middle of the first round this June.
An undersized, draft-eligible sophomore out of Ball State, Jameson has a lightning quick arm with electric stuff out of a 6-foot, 165-pound frame. Jameson works with an up-tempo delivery and has been up to 97 mph with his fastball, although he’s more regularly in the 93-95 mph range. While it’s a plus offering, Jameson’s control of his fastball isn’t great, which leads to him pitching off of an average slider. He has better feel to throw strikes with his slider, but it’s not currently a wipeout pitch. Some scouts believe Jameson’s slider could turn into an above-average offering in a bullpen role, if he’s able to improve his fastball command and use his breaking ball as a chase pitch more regularly. His changeup might be his best pure secondary offering, as it flashes plus at times but remains wildly inconsistent at the moment. There are plenty of ingredients to like with Jameson, but he’ll need to continue sharpening his control moving forward and will always face reliever questions given his size.