So far, our coverage of the 2017 MLB Draft has been focused on the first round names that have been fluttering around the Twitter universe. However, we’ve all seen just how impressive the picks after the first one can be (see Lucas Erceg, Corbin Burnes, and Mario Feliciano from last season). Giving some of our time to the Crew’s selections at #34, #46, and #84 and slightly beyond would be a disservice to those numerous success stories that have occurred in baseball.
NOTE: Some of the names I list may be available at later stages; likewise, some names may not last as far as some draft ranking sites would have them. For reference, I looked at both Baseball America’s older list, as well as a more-recently updated MLB Pipeline list of the top-200 prospects in this year’s draft. We’ll stick around some realistic rankings for each pick so we don’t get too ahead of ourselves.
With the 9th Pick….
We’ve briefly mentioned a few selections already – both here (RHP Alex Faedo and 1B Pavin Smith) and here (OF’s Jordan Adell and Austin Beck) – so we’ll continue to sift through the highest selections as we count down the days to the draft. Some other names we might be looking at include: RHP’s J.B. Bukauskas, Shane Baz, & Sam Carlson, LHP D.L. Hall, 3B Jake Burger, SS/OF Royce Lewis, etc.
With the 34th Pick….
Interesting Names: RHP Blayne Enlow, SS Nick Allen, LHP Brendon Little, RHP Corbin Martin, OF Heliot Ramos, OF Tristen Lutz
In a draft that is lean on offensive punch, there are plenty of pitchers to look into for each round. In the first supplemental round, the Crew could really capitalize and net a solid arm if they end up drafting a bat with the 9th overall pick. If the organization is looking for a college arm, RHP Corbin Martin could sneak through the first round. Scouts haven’t been able to pin him down completely, as he’s pitched well in summer ball but had struggled to throw strikes this season at Texas A & M. At 6’3″ with a frame carrying 200 lbs., features three above-average to plus offerings, including a fastball that sat in the mid-nineties last summer (though 91-95 mph this spring). Combined with a 60-grade curveball, an above- average slider, and a potentially-average changeup, and he could become a really special draftee. However, he’s primarily pitched out of the bullpen – a place where he may end up due to command issues – so he may be more of a risk as a starter. The other choice could be LHP Brendon Little – a 6’2″, 195-pound southpaw who blows hitters away with a fastball-curveball mix. Even through this season, he’s maintained his mid-90’s velocity from last season, touching 97 mph on multiple occasions. His curveball is definitely in the 12-to-6 range, and it too flashes as a plus-offering next to his work-in-progress changeup. His major downfall has been in his inconsistent delivery, which causes him to miss the zone and unintentionally flatten out his fastball. Like Martin, scouts believe he may be destined for the bullpen – though an attempt at working out his mechanical kinks will be tantalizing for any organization looking for high-heat from the left side.
In terms of prep arms, RHP Blayne Enlow might also be available to select with the 34th pick. Though selecting a prep arm can be incredibly risky (signability and lack of experience), both selections could be worth a ton to the Crew in the future. Enlow – a 6’4″, 180-pound 18 year-old – features some pretty solid polish. Known for owning arguably the best curveball in this year’s prep class, he sits in the 88-92 mph range with his fastball (reaching 94). He’s got a smooth, easy, and repeatable delivery – all great signs for an interested party. However, he struggles to maintain velocity deeper into starts – something that can be fixed by adding strength to his frame.
When it comes to the infield, chances are high that the Crew won’t be able to nab SS Nick Allen – who many have raved about for months. Though compared to infielder Jose Altuve in size (5’8″, 164 lbs.), Allen packs a punch nearly everywhere on the field. His bat could be considered pretty solid for a prospect his stature, and he has above-average speed with tremendous instincts. But his biggest tool on the field is in his defensive abilities; he’s made some spectacular plays on a consistent basis at shortstop while owning a great arm that can play anywhere in the field; add-in the fact that scouts have been raving about his personal makeup and baseball-IQ and Allen could be a really nice piece to have in an organization.
A trio of prep outfielders might also make some sense here – though it’s looking more and more like an outfielder will be selected with the 9th pick. Tristen Lutz, coming in at 6’3″ and 210 lbs., could be the most intriguing of the bunch. He’s known primarily for his right-handed power potential – displayed by his thick frame and great bat speed. Not only that, but he does have a solid feel for making contact and utilizes the field well. He’s got a strong arm in the field as well – most likely why many scouts feel he’s best suited for right field due to his average speed. The switch-hitting Drew Waters could also be a fit, as he has at least average hit tools across the board. The 6’2″, 185 lbs. center fielder’s best tools come beyond the bat, however, as he owns 60-grade tools in speed, fielding, arm strength. A final pick could be a risky one, as Heliot Ramos has legitimate power potential but has scouts divided on whether or not he could truly tap into that reserve of offensive might. Other than that, he could become at least a 20-20 type player if he can continue to grow stronger.
With the 46th Pick….
Interesting Names: C/RHP Hagen Danner, LHP Jacob Heatherly, 1B Brent Rooker, RHP Tristan Beck, SS Kevin Merrell, RHP Blaine Knight
On the heels of the last selection, the Crew could nab another intriguing prospect from the last batch if they played their cards right on the financial end of the draft. But nonetheless, there could be a bevvy of names beyond the ones already listed.
It might be tough to envision him falling below the 30-40 range with the popularity he’s garnered as a pitcher, but C/RHP Hagen Danner could be an intriguing two-way add. Though just graduating from high school this season, the 6’1″, 195-lbs. right-hander. As a pitcher, he features a low-to mid 90’s fastball with a potentially-average curveball and changeup. He has solid command of all of his pitches, and gets some slope on each throw with his high arm slot. As a catcher, his arm strength if easily his best feature – though his athletic frame helps him stay agile as an above-average defender behind the plate. He makes solid contact with the stick, but his power could continue to be taken up a notch or so.
This might also be a proper time to nab an infielder, as both 1B Brent Rooker and SS Kevin Merrell could be available. Though Rooker is an older prospect (22 years, 7 months), he could have the best polish at this point in the draft. Working on his game after being drafted in the 38th-round last season, the 6’4″, 215 lbs. righty began to utilize more of his lower half to further tap into his power potential, and it showed on the field by topping Division I leaderboards in doubles, slugging percentage, and OPS. But what is most interesting about Rooker is his track record with wood-bat leagues for the last three summers on top of performing this spring in college baseball’s toughest conference (was still the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year). As a converted outfielder, he’s not slow by any means, so teams could draft him and return him to the corner outfield spots if they chose. Although he isn’t as fast as OF Quentin Holmes, SS Kevin Merrell displays some of the best wheels in recent memory. Because of his legs – and perhaps due to his lack of power – it has appeared that his game is more geared toward getting on-base by any means and doing damage on the basepaths. However, he also added a little more pop this season than before – leading some to believe he might be more than just a singles-hitter. He has average tools in terms of fielding and throwing, so some believe a transition to center field might be the best option for him moving forward.
In terms of arms, a trio of names could make sense. I was really high on drafting LHP Jacob Heatherly with the 9th pick once the first scouting reports came out on the 2017 class. But despite the comparisons to Marlin’s top prospect LHP Braxton Garrett (#37 in MLBPipeline’s top 100) last season, Heatherly’s secondary pitches and control took a step back in the spring of 2017. The 6’1″, 214-pound prep draftee continues to flash his low-90’s fastball with a trio of average-looking secondary offerings (curveball, slider, changeup). Due to his control issues this season, these offerings have been less-effective, and some have somewhat blended together (his sharp curveball and short slider). If one is looking for a similar story with a college arm, then RHP Tristan Beck could also make for an interesting buy-low candidate. Though he declined to sign with the Crew back in 2015 (34th round), the Stanford freshman earned All-American honors while starting on Opening Day for his new team. However, his sophomore season fell apart before it even started, as a stress fracture in his back kept him on the bench all spring. If none of his stuff has changed, the 6’4″, 165-pound 20-year old would have a very polished three-pitch mix, consisting of a low-90’s fastball, a 60-grade changeup, and a very solid curveball. Though he could gain a few more ticks of velocity on his fastball, he’ll have to stick as a finesse pitcher – to which he’s already been known for solid command. If the Crew decides to take a gamble on an injured back, he could be a first-rate steal at that level of the draft. Righty Blaine Knight could be yet another option as a pitcher. As a sophomore at Arkansas, he flashed a 97-mph fastball (sat 90-94) with his loose and easy delivery. His slider/cutter comes in as his best secondary pitch, though he also has potentially-average grades tied with his changeup and curveball. His biggest question going into the draft is his durability, as his body (6’3″, 165 lbs.) isn’t carrying a ton of leverage – making some believe he could be destined to become a bullpen piece.
With the 84th Pick….
Interesting Names: C M.J. Melendez, LHP Daniel Tillo, RHP Will Gadis, SS Greg Jones, SS Taylor Walls, RHP Bryce Montes de Oca, RHP Morgan Cooper, RHP Spencer Howard, RHP Tyler Johnson (RP), RHP Landon Leach, OF Jake Mangum
The deeper we go, the more teams will have to dig for value. There are a lot of names here, so I’ll start covering a few at each selection.
Out of the available arms, a couple stand out as interesting candidates. LHP Daniel Tillo could be a nice grab at #84, as he’s got a pretty big frame as a sophomore in college (6’5″, 215 lbs.) that allows him to chuck a ball at about 92-95 mph consistently (touching 97 mph). His slider is also a plus offering, though he tends to utilize it more than he should. He has a feel for a changeup as well – though he didn’t use it much in his sophomore year. He’s had a couple of bumps and bruises this season, but his stock in the first three rounds could wean him away from his transfer to Arkansas’ baseball program next season. RHP Will Gaddis could be another nice grab, as the 21-year old junior owns a high floor as a starting pitcher. Armed with a seriously-sinking fastball that sits between 88-92 mph (touching 96 mph in the fall), he compliments it with an average changeup (flashing plus), curveball, and cutter. He doesn’t have issues repeating his delivery, and can throw each pitch for strikes. He’s a true competitor according to scouts, and has the stuff to be a very dependable 4th starter.
Offensively, SS’s Taylor Walls and Greg Jones could be a pair to watch for. If you want blazing speed and some flashy potential, Jones – the 19-year old prep switch hitter – definitely has it. He was clocked as fast as 3.85 from home to first base – which if you weren’t aware is really, really fast (3.9 is considered ’80-grade’). On top of that, he has some bat speed and sneaky pop to his bat. He has been known to not play with his all at-times, which could be a concern for some. Defensively, he has the arm for shortstop but doesn’t have the best fielding abilities. Worst-case scenario for him would be in center field, which might sound to some like a Billy Hamilton comparison. If you’re looking more for a more-experienced and less-risky bet, then the 20-year old Walls might be more up your alley. The Florida State Seminole had a bit of a down year at the plate in terms of contact, but the switch-hitter displays very good plate discipline (walked more than he’s struck out in 2017). His bat has a little pop to it, but nothing that screams ‘over-the-fence’ potential. At 5’10 and 180 lbs., Walls has the fielding ability and a slightly above-average arm to stick at shortstop – though some believe he would be best suited as a super-utilityman.
If you’re looking for an absolute gamble, RHP Bryce Montes de Oca could be for you if he is still on the board (chances are low). The 6’7″, 265-pound Tommy John survivor owns a fastball with velocity (92-96 as a starter, 100 mpg as a reliever) and some serious sink – a combination that makes it nearly impossible to hit in the air. His curveball has also improved to flash as a plus-offering. However, he has a track record of both fragility and at-times serious control issues.
Honestly, if the Crew could convince OF Jake Mangum to switch around the ‘n’ and the ‘g’ in his name, he could be draft-worthy based on his 80-grade name alone. Regardless of the discrepancy, the Mississippi State center fielder has the potential to have good contact skills mixed with some really nice speed. Though his numbers took a hit due to a broken left hand this spring, he still could bode well as a serviceable leadoff man if he hits his full potential. On top of that, his arm from the outfield is plenty good to play anywhere – seen in his 93-mph fastballs as a member of the squads rotation.
I’ll continue with a couple more selections (114th, 144th) in a few days, so make sure you check back and see more names – as well as my own personal choices at the end for each pick.
NOTE: Photo courtesy of Stanford Athletics