With both the MLB Draft and the College World Series just around the corner, let’s take a moment to recognize a few of the Top 100 Prospects (according to MLB.com) that are on the verge of being drafted AND playing for an NCAA championship this summer!
Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn
Raw and undrafted out of an Alabama high school three years ago, Mize has blossomed at Auburn and not only is a lock to join Gregg Olson (1988) and Frank Thomas (1989) as Tigers selected in the top 10 picks, but he’s also the prohibitive favorite to go No. 1 overall. He has the best combination of stuff and control among college pitchers in the 2018 Draft, and he has proven he can stay healthy. Shut down last spring at Auburn and again during the summer with Team USA with a tired arm and a flexor strain in his forearm, he has had no issues this year.
Mize can get swings and misses with three different pitches, the best of which is a mid-80s splitter that dives at the plate. He sets it up with a 92-97 mph fastball that he commands exceptionally well despite its running life. His mid-80s slider has taken a step forward this spring, consistently grading as a plus offering, and he also has developed the ability to turn it into a harder cutter when he desires.
Mize has an athletic frame and a clean delivery, so there’s no glaring flaw that can be blamed for his health concerns. He pounds the strike zone, ranking first in NCAA Division I in K/BB ratio (12.1) and fourth in walks per nine innings (1.0) as a sophomore and posting similar numbers as a junior. Scouts also love the way he competes on the mound.
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Nick Madrigal, 2B/SS, Oregon State
In the not-too-distant past, a player like Madrigal would have been overlooked by many teams because of his size. The combination of more organizations embracing analytics and the success of players like Jose Altuve, not to mention the superb performance of the 5-foot-7 infielder, had Madrigal poised to perhaps be the top college position player taken in the 2018 Draft. A broken wrist at the start of the season slowed him down, but he returned in April swinging a hot bat.
While Madrigal might have been more of a gut feel kind of player for scouts, he now has track record on top of being a scout favorite. Analytics departments love him because of his approach at the plate that led to more walks than strikeouts in 2017, and while he doesn’t have a ton of over-the-fence power, he makes consistent hard contact and is a legitimate extra-base threat. His speed and instincts should allow him to continue to be a base stealer.
While Madrigal has played mostly second base in deference to Cadyn Grenier at Oregon State, some feel he could handle shortstop if need be. If not, he has the chance to be a Gold Glove caliber second baseman in the future. Even with the injury, he should land squarely in the top 10 in June.
Look for Nick Madrigal in the following products:
- 2015 Panini USA Stars & Stripes Baseball
- 2017 Panini Elite Extra Edition Baseball
- 2018 Panini USA Stars & Stripes Baseball
Ryan Rolison, LHP, Mississippi
Scouts considered Rolison one of the most polished high school left-handers in the 2016 Draft, but his determination to attend Mississippi dropped him to the Padres in the 37th round. He emerged as the Rebels’ most reliable starter in the second half of his 2017 freshman season and starred in the Cape Cod League during the summer, putting himself in position to join Drew Pomeranz as the only players in school history to go in the first round. He has maintained that status despite being a little inconsistent this spring.
Rolison has one of the best curveballs in the Draft, a sharp breaker with power and depth. He works in the low 90s with his fastball, can hit 95 mph when he needs to and locates his heater to either side of the plate. He also mixes in a slider with some tilt and a changeup with some fade.
Add in his athleticism, strong build and easy delivery, and Rolison has everything he needs to remain a starter at the next level. His stuff and his control have improved in each of the last two years, and he may not be done getting better. He has extra leverage as a Draft-eligible sophomore.
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Steele Walker, OF, Oklahoma
Few players in the 2018 college Draft class can match Walker’s track record with wood bats. He led the Northwoods League with a .406 batting average in the summer of 2016 and was Team USA’s most productive hitter last summer. His pure hitting ability gives him a chance to become the first Oklahoma position player selected in the first round since John Russell in 1982.
Thanks to his hand-eye coordination, pitch recognition and controlled approach, Walker repeatedly laces line drives to all fields. He’s not big but he has a quick left-handed swing and some deceptive strength that should produce at least average power. Though he makes contact so easily, he continues to hone his plate discipline and draws his share of walks.
Walker’s bat is his lone above-average tool and will have to carry him. While he uses his savvy to get the job done in center and right field for the Sooners, his average speed and fringy arm likely will push him to left field in pro ball. Scouts do love his instincts and makeup.
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Seth Beer, 1B, Clemson
Beer graduated a semester early from high school and bypassed the Draft to enroll at Clemson, where he was the consensus freshman of the year and won the Dick Howser Award as the college player of the year in 2016. He almost immediately thrust himself into the discussion for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 Draft, but as that event approaches he’s the most polarizing prospect in the class. Some teams believe in his lofty offensive ceiling and see him as a sure first-rounder, while other clubs question his ability to hit with wood and play a position.
His proponents point to Beer’s production with the Tigers: .333/.506/.651 with 34 homers and more than twice as many walks (126) as strikeouts (62) in his first two years, with similar numbers in his third. Few college players can match his combination of strength and patience at the plate. For those sold that his left-handed power will play at the next level, it can be a carrying tool.
Beer’s detractors don’t like his less-than-smooth stroke and his wood-bat history, which includes some struggles on the high school showcase circuit and a .208/.344/.287 line in two years with Team USA. All of his value lies in his bat because he’s a bottom-of-the-scale runner whose position options are first base and DH. He played mostly outfield in his first two college seasons but his lack of range and fringy arm made him a liability there.
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Luken Baker, 1B, Texas Christian
The most intriguing two-way player in the 2015 Draft, Baker could have gone in the second round as a pitcher had he not sent a letter to MLB teams asking them to bypass him because he planned on attending Texas Christian. He turned down the Astros as a 37th-rounder and starred both ways as freshman before straining a muscle in his arm and deciding to focus on hitting. He has continued to produce at the plate but has seen his last two seasons end prematurely with nasty injuries, a hairline fracture and ligament and muscle damage in his left arm in a collision at first base in 2017 and a broken fibula and torn ankle ligaments in his left leg after an awkward slide this April.
Baker’s massive 6-foot-4, 265-pound frame gives him tremendous strength and leverage, which along with his solid bat speed gives him power to all fields. Though his size naturally adds length to his right-handed swing, he does a good job of keeping it under control. He has walked more than he has struck out with the Horned Frogs, refusing to chase on the frequent occasions when he gets pitched around.
Though Baker does a good job of maintaining his body and has some athleticism, his size limits his effectiveness on the bases and in the field. He’s a well-below-average runner and just an adequate defender at first base. He has shown a low-90s fastball, solid slider and good feel for pitching in the past, but there are no plans for him to return to the mound.
Look for Luken Baker in the following products:
- 2012 Panini USA Baseball National Team
- 2014 Panini USA Baseball
- 2015 Panini USA Stars & Stripes Baseball
Konnor Pilkington, LHP, Mississippi State
Few college players in the 2018 Draft can match Pilkington’s youth (he won’t turn 21 until September) and track record. He cracked Mississippi State’s Southeastern Conference rotation as a freshman, became its No. 1 starter as a sophomore and performed well in the Cape Cod League and with Team USA during his two summers. Though his velocity has been down this spring, he still should fit somewhere in the first two rounds.
Pilkington could have three solid or better pitches when all is said and done. After touching 96 mph in the past, he’s working more at 88-91 and topping out at 93, but his fastball is still effective because he uses his 6-foot-3 frame and a high three-quarters arm slot to deliver it on a steep downhill plane. He trusts his advanced changeup more than his slider, which can get slurvy at times.
Pilkington’s stuff, strong frame and competitiveness could make him an innings-eating No. 3 or 4 starter. Prone to occasional lapses of control in previous years, he has pounded the strike zone better than ever this spring. He’ll need to watch his conditioning to reach his potential.
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Tim Cate, LHP, Connecticut
For two years, Cate had been an effective starter at UConn, and for two summers, he went on to pitch for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team as a reliever. There’s no question, though, that Cate’s future is as a starter, though while he began 2018 as the Huskies’ Friday night guy for the second season in a row, a cloud hung over his Draft stock as forearm tightness forced him to miss several starts.
Cate might have the best breaking ball in the entire Draft class, the kind of 12-to-6 hammer he could tell hitters was coming during his sophomore year and they still couldn’t put it in play. He throws it from the same plane as his fastball so effectively, hitters never have a chance to pick it up well. He’ll throw it whenever he wants in the count and can command it very well in the strike zone. That allows his 90-93 mph fastball to be more effective. It has more run than sink, with average life overall, but he can throw it to both sides of the plate consistently. His changeup is a little firm, but he shows enough feel for it to be a future average offering.
Cate isn’t the biggest guy in the world at 6 feet, and concern about overuse during his time at UConn certainly wasn’t assuaged with his 2018 injury. If healthy, he’s one of the better college lefties in the class, but placing him on Draft boards will be a challenge.
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Steven Gingery, LHP, Texas Tech
Part of a Marina High (Huntington Beach, Calif.) program that has produced a pair of first-round picks in Daric Barton and Craig Wilson as well as five other big leaguers, Gingery didn’t attract much pro interest when he graduated in 2015 because he was a 6-foot lefty with an upper-80s fastball. He still isn’t very big and doesn’t throw very hard, but that didn’t stop him from serving as the No. 2 starter on Texas Tech’s 2016 College World Series team as a freshman and winning Big 12 Conference pitcher of the year honors as a sophomore. He also was one of the best starters on the U.S. national collegiate team last summer, but his junior campaign ended early when he blew out his elbow in February and had Tommy John surgery.
Gingery’s money pitch is a fading changeup that might be the best in the entire 2018 Draft crop. He has below-average fastball velocity, sitting at 88-92 mph and occasionally popping 94, yet the pitch is effective because it has quality sink and he can locate it on either side of the plate. His curveball is nothing special but he consistently lands it in the strike zone.
There’s not a ton of projection remaining in Gingery’s 6-foot-2 frame, so his ceiling may be as a No. 4 starter. He does offer one of higher floors in the Draft, however, as an innings-eating strike thrower with a competitive edge. Scouts love his competitiveness, and he elicits comparisons to Jason Vargas, who tied for the big league lead with 18 victories last season.
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Sean Wymer, RHP, Texas Christian
Wymer served as a troubleshooting reliever on Texas Christian’s College World Series club in 2017, the fourth straight year the Horned Frogs reached Omaha. Though he was extremely valuable in that role, retiring 35 of the 39 batters he faced while recording two wins and a save during the NCAA postseason, TCU shifted him into its rotation this spring. Though his stuff hasn’t been as crisp as it has in the past and he missed time with back issues early in the season, he has still shown enough to factor in the first three rounds of the Draft.
Wymer has four quality pitches and there’s little consensus as to which is his best. He’ll flash a well-above-average curveball at times, though there are other times when his hard slider is his superior breaking ball. He doesn’t worry about radar guns, working at 89-92 mph with a quality sinker, though he can reach back for 95-96-mph heat when he needs to.
As if that’s not enough, Wymer can also unveil a solid changeup and fully trusts the pitch. Though he’s not big, he’s athletic and repeats his delivery, allowing him to throw a ton of strikes and boding well for his durability. He has advanced feel for pitching and mixes his pitches masterfully.
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Scouting reports courtesy of MLB.com 2018 Prospect Watch. See more scouting reports of the Top 100 prospects here.
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