Feature Photo: Hunter Greene, RHP/SS, Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, CA)
In this week’s MLB Draft Bites, Burke Granger shares his thoughts on two of the top prospects on a deep LSU squad, guest contributor Mario Phillips provides notes from the Boras Baseball Classic on a couple of this draft class’ top prep standouts, and Nick Faleris provides notes on a UNC outfielder drawing Day One interest. Additionally, Ryan Ozella shares some quick hits on a pair of NAIA sluggers who could provide value in the later rounds. And don’t forget to check out our rapidly-growing 2017 MLB Draft Class Video Library here!
Hunter Greene, RHP/SS, Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, CA) | 2017 Draft Class
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/205 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 17y, 10m
Though Greene is committed to UCLA, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll set foot on campus as the two-way standout is a lock to go in the top five overall picks in June and collect a hefty seven-figure bonus. He draws praise for his makeup, which is nearly as impressive as his monster physical tools, and joins another duel threat, Louisville’s Brendan McKay (LHP/1B), as the favorites to come off the board first overall to Minnesota (barring a cost-saving, pre-draft deal).
While Greene did not pitch in last week’s Boras Baseball Classic, through multiple looks at him over his prep career he has displayed a heavy mid-90s fastball with consistent late life (VIDEO). He overpowers the competition at the prep level by spotting his fastball to all quadrants, while demonstrating an exceptional feel for pitching for such a young age. That command will allow him to continue to generate swings and misses at higher levels. His pitching intellect and work ethic should allow him to refine his secondary pitches, including a changeup that could develop into a pitch as devastating as his plus slider already is. Greene has a fluid delivery and repeatable mechanics that should have no trouble withstanding the rigors of full season baseball. He also works at a quick pace, often keeping advanced prep hitters off balance.
Though Greene will almost certainly be selected as a pitcher, he would also receive first-round consideration as a shortstop. Rangy for his size, he’s graceful up the middle and makes strong, accurate throws from multiple arm angles with a quick release. His bat is also impressive. Greene has advanced hand-eye coordination with good barrel acceleration through contact. This kid has plus raw power and he has also demonstrated the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field with authority. – Mario Phillips
Royce Lewis, SS, J Serra (San Juan Capistrano, CA) | 2017 Draft Class
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/188 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 18y, 0m
Lewis is an exciting and dynamic player who’s been a lightning rod for debate regarding where he’ll play in the field as a professional. The UC Irvine commit is an impressive athletic specimen and displays good range at shortstop, though there is still refinement required in his footwork and execution, and he can present as rough around the edges for a middle infielder. While Lewis has worked tirelessly to improve his infield defense, he occasionally struggles with reads on balls hit up the middle, and his inconsistent footwork can make his lower body look stiff on lateral plays. On the other hand, Lewis’s hands are pretty smooth on fielded balls, and he gets rid of the ball quickly, displaying an above-average arm with easy on-line carry on his throws across the diamond.
At the dish and on the bases, Lewis is a legitimate offensive threat. He generates good bat speed through the strike zone, and his quick hands and athleticism project legit run-production power. Lewis is an above-average, aggressive baserunner who should be able to steal 20-to-25 bags a year at the highest levels of pro ball. Lewis is a born leader with a tireless worth ethic that rubs off on his teammates, and inspires those around him.
While I don’t see Lewis sticking in the middle of the infield, I do project him as a complete-package outfielder who could handle any position in the grass while getting every opportunity to stick in center field. Through multiple views of Lewis throughout his prep career, and most recently at the Boras event, he reminds me of a young Justin Upton (LF, Tigers), another toolsy infielder destined for the outfield. Like Upton, Lewis could be the top prep position player selected in the 2017 draft class. – Mario Phillips
Alex Lange, RHP, LSU | 2017 Draft Class
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/200 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 8m
Tall, lean, and high-waisted, Lange has room to fill out as he matures, with a frame that lends itself to additional projection. Using an arm slot that is almost completely over the top, Lange maximizes his downhill plane while uses his long limbs to get good extension though his release. Starting with an abbreviated windup, Lange’s actions accelerate after a hard push off the rubber, showing some effort in the delivery that frequently ends with a head whack. On Friday night against Kentucky, Lange struggled to locate his 89-to-92 mph fastball, often leaving it up or missing the zone altogether. While his four-seamer can be a bit straight, he mixes in a two-seamer that shows arm-side run. Lange’s hammer curveball is a true plus out-pitch that generates swings and misses with depth and hard 12-to-6 movement. Though inconsistent, Lange flashed a couple of average changeups with good sinking life.
An intense competitor, Lange’s passion is evident on the mound, often staring down opposing hitters after strikeouts. That fiery disposition, coupled with the effort of his delivery fuels speculation that he may be destined for a late-inning relief role as a professional. With two pitches that are at least above average and a developing third average offering, however, he’ll be given every opportunity to start.
Despite lacking his best stuff last weekend, Lange battled for five and two-thirds innings where he allowed seven hits and walked eight, but surrendered just three runs thanks to seven timely strikeouts. Notwithstanding the up and down season, Lange should still hear his name called in the first round. Thus far, Lange has a 4-4 record with a 3.41 ERA and 76 punchouts in 58 innings (11.90 SO/9). – Burke Granger
Greg Deichmann, RF/1B, LSU | 2017 Draft Class
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/210 B/T: L/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 22y, 0m
Serving as the Tiger’s primary first baseman, Greg Deichmann had a productive sophomore campaign in Baton Rouge where he slashed .288/.346/.513 that cumulated with the Twins making him 26th-round selection. Choosing not to sign, Deichmann returned to campus in a decision that is likely to pay dividends. Now a junior, Deichmann has elevated his draft stock into late Day One or early Day Two consideration due to a strong season in which he’s slashing .338/.422/.656 while ranking second in the SEC in home runs (13) and RBIs (46).
Broad shouldered and solidly built, Deichmann is an imposing figure who looks larger than his listed 210 pounds. In the box, Deichmann stands tall with a slightly open stance and his hands even with his back shoulder. After a simple load, Deichmann unleashes a powerful but balanced stroke, adequately covering the plate while driving the ball to all fields. Deichmann’s double-plus raw power is more the product of brute strength than of bat speed, which he demonstrated during a nine-pitch at-bat on Friday. After fouling back four off-speed pitches, Deichmann finally got under a fastball that he muscled over the fence in right-center field. Taking what the pitcher gives him, Deichman has a patient approach as the plate as he leads the Tiger’s in walks with 25.
In addition to his time at first base, Deichmann also saw time at third base and designated hitter last season, but he appears comfortable in right field this season. While I didn’t see his arm tested, he got decent reads on fly balls and showed average first step quickness and straight line speed. – Burke Granger
Brian Miller, OF, Univ. of North Carolina | 2017 Draft Class
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/186 B/T: L/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 9m
After a strong showing in the Cape Cod League last summer, in which he finished second in the league in batting (.327), Miller has continued to grow his stock this spring. The fleet-footed center fielder is currently slashing .326/.407/.506 over 41 games and 204 plate appearances while flexing good wheels out of the box (4.0-to-4.1 second home-to-first times), and showing good instincts on the bases.
Miller tracks well and has a good feel for contact, flashing skills that could make him a useful catalyst atop a pro lineup. He’s comfortable working the barrel across the quadrants and spraying line drives to all fields – a talent that shown through last summer with wood, giving evaluators some comfort that the hit tool can carry. At the same time, there are some questions as to how much damage he’ll be able to manufacture with wood against top-level pro arms, which could eat into his on-base production as he advances up the minor league ladder and more regularly faces arms that will challenge him in the zone. There’s solid raw strength here, and some slight mechanical tweaks to the swing could help him to elevate more regularly and hopefully produce more regular gap power, with his plus to double-plus speed allowing him to rack up doubles and triples. His loose, handsy swing and nose for contact should help him to implement pro instruction and make the needed adjustments.
Miller is a safe bet to stick in center field long term, and the glove, combined with the potential for good value on the bases, should anchor him as a likely Day One selection come June. There may not be an impact tool at maturity, but it’s a nice, balanced up-the-middle profile topped with solid collegiate performance both on the Cape and through his draft-eligible Spring. That combination tends to fair well on draft day. – Nick J. Faleris
2017 MLB DRAFT BITES
- Though he was selected by the Padres in the 16th round last year, left-hander Jared Poche returned to LSU for his senior season. Poche then proceeded to start the year as torrid as possible, no-hitting Army on opening weekend and taking another no-no into the ninth inning in his second start against Maryland the following weekend. Kentucky had no issues barreling up the touch and feel lefty on Friday, as they roughed him up for seven hits and five earned runs over just three innings in route to a 12-5 Wildcat victory. – Burke Granger
- Earlier this season, Jordan Getzelman (VIDEO) broke the Menlo College single season home run record set last year by Lucas Erceg (3B, Brewers, 2016 46th overall pick) and he’s leading NAIA Division I in home runs (25). The toolsy center fielder continued to cause issues for opposing pitching, going 5-for-13 with three runs over three games against William Jessup University last weekend. Getzelman is leading the Oaks in most offensive categories and hoping his breakout season (.337/.433/.867, 11 doubles, 25 home runs and 13 stolen bases) has caught the eye of MLB teams. – Ryan Ozella
- Like Getzelman, Joe Gillette (VIDEO) is looking to follow in the footsteps of fellow third baseman Lucas Erceg this season, putting up strong numbers, while hitting early in a potent Oaks lineup. The former Oregon State Beaver has been a catalyst (.297/.416/.657, 13 home runs, 13 doubles, five triples) for the Oaks, scoring 51 runs with 31 extra base hits and leading the team with 33 walks. – Ryan Ozella
- Shane Baz (RHP, Concordia Lutheran (Tomball, TX)) (VIDEO) continues to draw first-round heat thanks to a slight uptick in stuff and consistency this Spring. The TCU commit is regularly working with a low-to-mid-90s heater that has been clocked as high as 97 mph in the zone, and his low-to-mid-80s slider has shown impressive shape and bite. He has flashed a solid curveball and changeup in the past but has not had much use for either this Spring thanks to the quality of his fastball/slider combo. There’s still some effort in the arm accompanied by a not-insignificant head whack, but Baz has impressed overall with his ability to execute. – Nick J. Faleris