Feature Photo: Luke Heimlich, LHP, Oregon State Univ.
This week’s MLB Draft Bites kicks off with Nick J. Faleris highlighting a pair of Southern California prep standouts who could become the first high school teammates drafted in the first round since the 2012 MLB Draft, when Max Fried (LHP, Braves) and Lucas Giolito (RHP, White Sox) of Harvard-Westlake School (CA) were selected seventh and 16th overall, respectively.
Ryan Ozella and Will Garofalo also provide notes on some of the premier prospects on a loaded Oregon State roster, while Burke Granger shares his thoughts on a smooth-hitting middle infielder who’s seeing his his draft stock rise thanks to a strong spring.
MLB DRAFT SPOTLIGHTS
Nick Pratto, 1B/LHP, Huntington Beach (Huntington Beach, CA) | 2017 Draft Class
Ht/Wt: 6’2” 195 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 18y, 8m
USC commit Nick Pratto has raised his stock this spring with loud performances at the plate and on the mound alike, muscling his way into Day One consideration. He sports a leveraged cut from the left side with good extension through contact, and also shows an ability to cover the quadrants effectively. Advocates draw swing comparisons to Mark Teixeira (1B, multiple MLB teams 2003-2016), though Tex displayed more raw power at the same age. A more measured comparison would be to fellow first-round candidate Brendan McKay (1B/LHP, Univ. of Louisville), who like Pratto carries upside on the mound and in the box. The McKay comp has the benefit of concern overlap, as well, with some evaluators questioning the ultimate upside of the stick based on showings with wood last summer.
At the recent USA Baseball National High School Invitational (NHSI), Pratto went 3-for-12 with two walks over four contests. He put together some good at-bats and showed an ability to make loud contact on multiple occasions, though he did not drive the ball with authority. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of strength and power potential kicking around in the profile, and Pratto should continue to receive Day One attention from area scouts and upper-level decision-makers alike.
On the mound at the USA Baseball Training Complex, the lefty was a hard luck loser, going 9 1/3 innings of work against Winder Barrow High School (Winder, GA), allowing three earned runs while allowing just six hits and no walks while striking out nine. Pratto’s stuff played in its typical range, with his fastball sitting 88-to-90 mph with above-average command to both sides of the plate, and with his changeup and curveball serving as weapons thanks to his high level of comfort with the offerings, and his willingness to utilize them in any count. – Nick J. Faleris
Hagen Danner, C/RHP, Huntington Beach (Huntington Beach, CA) | 2017 Draft Class
Ht/Wt: 6’2” 195 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 18y, 8m
In his day-four start at the USA Baseball National High School Invitational, Danner worked five innings, striking out six while allowing one earned run on five hits and one walk. Danner’s fastball regularly clocked in the low 90s, spiking at 95 mph, and worked well inside and out. His curveball worked best around 76-to-78 mph with good shape and bite and 11-to-5 action. The delivery is generally low effort, and Danner shows good athleticism on the mound as well as an easy, loose arm, allowing evaluators to project some growth in the stuff.
On the positional side, Danner stood out for his poise and maturity, demonstrating leadership on the field and a confident swagger in his actions. The UCLA commit went 4-for-10 on the tournament with three doubles and three walks, showing good bat speed and some explosion in the barrel. It’s a loose swing with good barrel acceleration and feel for contact (VIDEO), and he shows a willingness to wait out and work for pitches in his wheelhouse that he can drive.
As a catcher, he shows quick feet, good athleticism, solid side-to-side actions and a high level of comfort and confidence in his plus arm (as evidenced by his willingness to aggressively work back-picks behind runners).
Evaluators appear to still be split as to whether Danner projects best on the hill or behind the plate. Given his arm strength, easy mechanics, and feel on the mound, there is plenty for a player development staff to work with in sculpting a future starter – perhaps even a mid-rotation contributor. At the same time, Danner could boast a plus glove and arm to go with an average-or-better hit tool and fringe-average power – a first-division starter’s profile. Either way, Danner should be firmly entrenched as a potential Day One target. – Nick J. Faleris
K.J. Harrison, 1B/C, Oregon State Univ. | 2017 Draft Class
Ht/Wt: 6’0” 209 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 20y, 10m
Since arriving at Corvallis in 2015, multi-position K.J. Harrison has consistently shown a strong hit tool, slashing .300/.396/.520 and twice earning All-Pac-12 honors. During OSU’s recent series against Stanford (7-for-13 with five RBIs), Harrison continued hitting everything thrown at him, leading the Beavers through a perfect weekend.
Harrison possesses a compact, mature body, with muscular strength in his lower half to match his broad shoulders and chest. The first baseman and catcher was relegated to DH duties during the weekend due to a lingering wrist issue, but the injury didn’t phase his offensive game.
Starting from a crouched stance, Harrison utilizes a moderate leg lift as a timing mechanism while transferring power into his back leg and hip. The hands show a little wiggle pre-pitch, but quiet down while loading before exploding into the zone with a short, compact swing. Harrison makes hard contact at the front of the hitting area, finishing up and through balls to create loft and utilize his strong frame to drive pitches into the outfield. With a swing that has some moving parts, Harrison showed athleticism and timing regularly finishing in a balanced position and making hard contact. He showed a keen ability to recognize pitches, fouling off tougher ones before doing damage to mistakes up in the zone. He may need to show more in-game power potential to entice teams that view him as more of a first baseman than as a catcher, over the long term, but either way he should get early-round attention thanks to the hit tool alone. We’ve got some recent video of Harrison from the Stanford series here, as well as his BP Session from the 2016 USA Collegiate National Team here. – Ryan Ozella
Luke Heimlich, LHP, Oregon State Univ. | 2017 Draft Class
Ht/Wt: 6’1” 197 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 3m
Heimlich continued his dominant 2017 (5-0, five earned runs, .157 BAA, 63/12 SO/BB rate over 58 innings) at Stanford on March 31, allowing one run on four hits and striking out three in a complete game. The junior lefty is following strong 2015 and 2016 seasons, and making noise as a possible first-day pick in the 2017 draft.
The lean-built Heimlich has a high waist, showing present strength in his long legs. His loose body moves fluidly on the field and matched with his athleticism allows Heimlich to repeat his delivery while keeping a consistent high-3/4’s release point. With a simple delivery that starts with a small side step, Heimlich’s arm is quick with a compact circle, and he gets some added deception with the glove being pointed at the hitter while the ball stays on the back side. The balanced, effortless motion finishes with strong back leg carry.
Heimlich showed above-average command of his three-pitch mix, working both sides of the plate, changing speeds and sequence while retiring the first eleven batters. His fastball (88-to-90 mph (T92) held velocity throughout the start working with late arm-side tail and some occasional cut action to the glove side. The changeup (76-to-79 mph) was deceptive, coming with the same arm speed as the fastball, allowing Heimlich to pull the string and have it dive under the bat path. The curveball became a more prominent secondary the second and third time through the lineup, with tight 1-to-7 shape, tight spin, and sharp downer action. He threw both off-speed pitches to hitters on either side of the plate and in any count for strikes. – Ryan Ozella
Nick Madrigal, SS/2B, Oregon State Univ. | 2018 Draft Class
Ht/Wt: 5’7” 161 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 3m
Madrigal may be considered small in stature, but there is nothing tiny about his game on the field. The middle infielder oozes baseball talent, but if there were one tool to point out, it would be Madrigal’s bat. He possesses an advanced feel for hitting, with a very quick bat and plus bat-to-ball ability that allows him to make consistent hard contact. Batting .392 on the season, Madrigal got the fun started Friday night when he turned on an inside fastball from Jayson Rose (RHP, Univ. of Utah) for a leadoff double. He then displayed his plus speed and superior instincts as he read a bad throw from the left fielder and immediately dashed home. An OSU assistant coach stated that Madrigal is one of the more intelligent base runners he’s seen come through the program in a while.
Along with Madrigal’s plus hit tool and advanced feel for the game, he is a plus defender up the middle. He has the instincts and soft hands to stick at shortstop at the next level, but his future is more likely at second base given that he doesn’t have the superior arm strength of most MLB shortstops. The best part is that Madrigal is only a sophomore, so he has another full year of development before he becomes draft eligible. To think he could become even more of a polished hitter and defender is almost a crazy thought, but one that will determine how high he shoots up draft boards in 2018. He scheduled to play in the wood bat Cape Cod Baseball League this summer with the Wareham Gatemen. – Will Garofalo
Jayson Rose, RHP, Univ. of Utah | 2017 Draft Class
Ht/Wt: 6’0” 180 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 3m
To say that Rose has a live arm would be an understatement. His ability to get his arm quickly through the slot was one of the first things I noticed, and something that stuck with me through his outing. The junior righty didn’t get the win Friday night in Corvallis, but it wasn’t due to a lack of performance on his part. Equipped with a deceptive, low-90s fastball that jumped on hitters, a live two-seamer that runs away from lefties, a circle changeup that generated plenty of whiffs, and wipeout breaking ball, Rose limited the Beavers to five hits and two earned runs with eight punch outs over seven innings.
The Golden Spikes Award watch list member hasn’t had the best numbers this season thus far, but Friday’s start was a big step forward, after a rough outing in which he gave up nine runs to Oregon the previous week. Along with his good stuff, Rose showed great poise, as he was un-phased pitching through rain showers and fielding errors. Given Rose’s small frame, he may be better suited for the bullpen in the long term, where his live arm can play up in shorter stints. However, he does have multiple offerings and a deceptive delivery that plays the stuff up so there’s a good chance a major league team tries to develop him as a starter. If Rose can take his stuff from Friday into his future starts, he should see his name being called in the middle-20s rounds of the 2017 MLB draft. – Will Garofalo
Dallas Carroll, 3B, Univ. of Utah | 2017 Draft Class
Ht/Wt: 6’0” 205 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 23y, 0m
Carroll is the anchor in the Utes’ lineup, with a .404 batting average and 14 extra-base hits entering last weekend. The senior mans the hot corner and should be able to stay there at the next level given his strong arm and plus instincts. Carroll struggled on Friday against Beavers’ ace Luke Heimlich, going 0-4, but he did bounce back on Saturday with a double and a clutch two-out solo home run in the 16th inning that nearly ended Oregon State’s consecutive win streak. Sunday was relatively quite for him as he went 0-for-2 with a walk.
Despite only recording three hits this weekend, Carroll stands out for his advanced feel for contact (11 strikeouts in 127 plate appearances this season), which could serve him well at the next level. Rather than having one outstanding tool, Carroll is the type of player that is solid at all facets of the game. He has above-average bat speed that translates into gap-to-gap power. An above-average runner for a third baseman, Carroll is on pace for 10-to-15 stolen bases this season. With a solid all-around tool set, Carroll should get drafted in the middle rounds of the draft as a senior sign. He clearly has a high baseball aptitude, which could help him move to the upper levels of an organization’s system quickly. – Will Garofalo
Riley Mahan, 2B/SS, Univ. of Kentucky | 2017 Draft Class
Ht/Wt: 6’2” 195 B/T: L/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 5m
An unsigned 40th-round selection of the Padres out of Moeller High School Cincinnati, OH), Mahan has been a regular contributor for Kentucky throughout each of his first two collegiate seasons. Now a junior, Mahan has taken a step forward during his draft-eligible year. Mahan stands out as one of the more athletic players on a Kentucky team that is leading the Southeastern Conference in most offensive categories. On the season, Mahan is slashing .299/.342/.545, while leading the team with 14 doubles, 73 total bases, 32 RBIs and five home runs.
High-waisted with a lean, athletic frame, Mahan has room to add weight as he matures. Starting with a slightly open stance and high hands, Mahan employs a toe tap timing mechanism before unleashing a level, balanced swing that produces line drives to all fields. Though not a burner, Mahan has first-step quickness that plays well on the bases and in the field, which complements his average speed. Mahan’s tools were on display in a recent series against Vanderbilt, when he went 6-for-14, and five of his hits went for extra bases, including two home runs, two doubles and a triple. I’ve got some video from his recent series with Vanderbilt here.
After making 30 errors serving as the team’s starting shortstop last season, most of which were of the throwing variety, Mahan has transitioned to second base where he has cut down on his miscues significantly. Through the season’s halfway point, Mahan has just six errors. In speaking with an American League scout as to where Mahan profiles defensively as a professional, he stated that his days at shortstop are over, with second base the likely landing spot, and with the outfield being an option as well, where his athleticism would play nicely. Mahan figures to be an early pick in Day Two of the MLB Draft. – Burke Granger
MLB DRAFT BITES
- Houston southpaw Seth Romero has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of university and team policies. The second such suspension in as many seasons, the timing is less than ideal for Romero as his draft stock will be affected as we get closer to June 12th. Romero sits in the low-to-mid 90s with his fastball, and he pairs it with a late breaking slider that misses plenty of bats. At the time of his suspension, Romero was leading the country with 76 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings (15.43 SO/9). – Burke Granger
- After a 16-inning affair on Saturday, Jake Thompson (RHP, Oregon State) made quick work of the Utes on Sunday. The redshirt junior scattered four baserunners over 8 1/3 innings in a 5-1 victory. The win brings Thompson’s record to 7-0, which ties him for the Pac-12 lead. Thompson showcased a two-seamer with plus run, and a slider with two-plane depth that helped him strikeout seven. His changeup is a distant third pitch, and something he’ll need to develop in order to remain a starter. Drafted in the 34th round by the Cubs out of high school in 2013, Thompson should be a middle-20s round draft selection. – Will Garofalo
- DaShawn Keirsey Jr. (Utah) is a sophomore center fielder with a promising future. The left-handed hitter continued his hot hitting with five more hits this weekend in Corvallis against some tough pitching (OSU entered this weekend with an NCAA best 1.73 team ERA). Keirsey Jr. displayed a quick bat through the zone and a knack for getting on base. He has above-average speed that plays well in the field, but it hasn’t quite translated to many stolen bases yet as he has just three stolen bases in eight attempts. Keirsey Jr.’s profile makes him a fun follow as he continues to mature. – Will Garofalo
- American Heritage (Plantation, FL) shortstop Mark Vientos stood out at the NHSI for his quick and handsy cuts in the box (VIDEO), going 6-for-15 with a double and a walk in four games. He draws lofty comparisons to Manny Machado (3B, Orioles) as a lean Miami-area shortstop with impressive bat speed and potential to hit for average and power at maturity (though Vientos doesn’t have as broad a build as Machado, and the body doesn’t project to the same future bulk). He could wind up at third base due to fringy range, like Machado, and he’ll be one of the youngest players in the draft class. – Nick J. Faleris
- 2018 draft prospect Triston Casas (3B/1B, American Heritage (Plantation, FL)) also stood out at the NHSI, going 5-for-12 on the tournament with six walks. The lefty swinger has a chance to hit for at least above-average power thanks to good leverage in the swing and a rapidly-strengthening trunk and core (VIDEO). He gets good natural loft in the swing and carry on his fly balls. An early favorite of evaluators, Casas will be heavily scouted during the upcoming summer showcase circuit and is viewed in the early stages as one of the better bats in the 2018 prep class. – Nick J. Faleris
- Clemson commit Sam Keating (RHP/OF, Canterbury School (Fort Myers, FL)) put together an impressive start at the NHSI (VIDEO), working four innings of two-hit, shutout ball, walking one and striking out four. His fastball worked 88-to-91 mph (T93), with solid downhill plane out of a 3/4 ’s release. He added to the heater a quality mid-70s curveball that showed good spin and depth, and also mixed in an effective low-80s changeup and slider. Keating utilizes a simple step-in to his motion and maintains a nice, quick tempo throughout, though there is some effort in the arm. – Nick J. Faleris