Feature Photo: Jeren Kendall, CF, Vanderbilt Univ.
POSITIONAL PREVIEW LINKS
Though not particularly deep, the 2017 class does boast some of its top talents up-the-middle in the outfield, including potential top ten picks Royce Lewis (JSerra High School (CA)), Jeren Kendall (Vanderbilt), Adam Haseley (Virginia), and Jordon Adell (Ballard High School (KY)). The prep ranks include a handful of Day One talents who could sneak their way into first round selections, as well as a collection of more unrefined skill sets who are intriguing as potential selections early on Day Two.
Lewis has the athleticism and the skill set to profile both on the dirt and in the grass at the next level, bolstered by double-plus speed, quick twitch actions, and a solid throwing arm. He ranges well at shortstop and should be able to stick at the six-spot, though some clubs prefer his wheels out in center field where has shown impressive range and closing ability. Either way he is a high-value defender whose speed will also provide impact on the bases, where he shows advanced instincts, impressive aggressiveness, and the occasional sub-4.0 second home-to-first time (registering as a true 80 grade on the scouting scale).
At the plate Lewis has good feel for the barrel and a chance to hit for both average and power thanks to explosive bat speed. As his body continues to mature he should be able to carry the fence with more regularity and has the upside of a plus hit stick that can give you 20-plus home runs a year to go with a pile of doubles and triples. Lewis rounds out the package with off-the-charts make-up, making him one of the most sought after talents in the draft class. An up-the-middle defender with a chance for impact offensive production, he should hear his name called very early on Day One, and likely in the top five picks.
Kendall entered the season as the potential top position player in this draft class, but his stock has taken a hit due to questions about his bat – particularly his propensity to swing and miss. Throughout the spring Kendall racked up strikeouts in around 74 of his 294 plate appearances (25%) of his plate appearances. For perspective, 2016 first rounders Corey Ray (Brewers) and Kyle Lewis (Mariners) finished their respective final collegiate seasons with 41 and 48 punchouts respectively.
While much has been made of Kendall’s contact issues this Spring, he still possesses an appealing mix of speed and power while also displaying the tools necessary to stick in center field. He wields plus bat speed in the box, fueling his 15 home runs this spring, and while smaller in stature draws comparisons to George Springer (OF, Astros) for his body type and athletic actions. Kendall has been clocked at 3.85 seconds from home to first base, and his elite speed plays once he reaches, allowing him to swipe 65 bases in 81 attempts (80.2%) throughout his collegiate career. Despite a disappointing junior season from a production standpoint, Kendall is in the mix to go in the top ten overall picks and is likely to find a home somewhere in the first round.
In a talented Virginia lineup, it’s Haseley, not fellow first-round candidate and slugging first baseman Pavin Smith, that leads the Cavaliers in home runs (14) and all three slash categories (.399/.496/.676). Haseley boasts an advanced approach at the plate, walking (44) twice as much as he’s struck out (21) in 270 plate appearances. He has wirey strength, plus bat speed and advanced feel for the barrel, making him a threat to hit for average and some power at the next level.
He’s a capable defender in center field, using above-average, straight-line speed to cover the gaps, and is proficient at closing on balls both when charging in and going back. He’s a safe bet to stick in center and provide above-average defense, and he profiles as a top-of-the-order stick that can do a little bit of everything. He’s a solid bet to come off the board in the top half of the first round, and has even generated some buzz as a potential top five pick in recent weeks.
Broad shouldered and high waisted with a muscular build, Adell is a grown man playing high school baseball with tools as loud as the thunderous contact he makes. Thumping ball after ball over the fence with an astonishing 24 home runs this Spring, Adell has easy raw power to all fields with explosiveness in his hands and core alike. A graceful runner, Adell earns plus grades on the run tool and has fluidity in his long stride length both on the base paths and in the grass.
He has plenty of arm for center field, and he could easily handle right field later in his career, as evidenced by his low- to mid-90s velocity on the mound. After an inconsistent showing on the summer showcase circuit, Adell has worked to quiet a busy swing, resulting in more consistent hard contact. There are still questions as to how well the hit tool will ultimately play, but the ceiling is immense. He’s a good fit somewhere in the middle of the first round and has the kind of tools teams are willing to gamble on in the top ten picks.
Bubba Thompson, OF, McGill-Toolen Catholic (Mobile, AL)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/180 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 19y, 0m
Thompson has the potential to play D-I ball both on the diamond and the gridiron, though scouts are hopeful that after a strong spring Thompson has placed himself in a position to go high enough in the draft to buy him out of his Alabama commitment. A plus to double-plus runner, Thompson shows easy athletic actions on the bases and in the field. Defensively, his speed plays primarily to outrun his raw reads and routes, though with increased reps and developmental attention he should grow into a well-above-average contributor with the leather.
He has bat speed to spare and a natural feel for the barrel, though he’ll need exposure to advanced pitching and plenty of at-bats in the lower levels to help refine his approach and improve the rate at which he’s able to barrel the ball. When clicking, he’s one of the more exciting talents in the draft class. Provided he’s signable, Thompson fits cleanly as a Day One talent, with a chance to go in the first round.
NAMES TO KNOW
Stuart Fairchild, CF, Wake Forest Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/205 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 2m
Though not the explosive athlete that Jeren Kendall (Vanderbilt) is, Fairchild is similarly a true center fielder with an interesting mix of speed and power that should place him squarely into Day One action. The Wake Forest standout recently flexed both his pop and his wheels at the ACC Tournament in front of a healthy dose of MLB executives, homering to both left and to right field in his first two plate appearances in a pool play game against Miami, while also showing off efficient routes in the outfield.
As with teammate Gavin Sheets, Fairchild struggled with wood bats in the 2016 Cape Cod League, slashing just .232/.323/.330 last summer. While the slash line was a bit prettier this spring (.360/.437/.640), the strikeouts have been a red flag for some evaluators, with Fairchild striking out in 52 of his nearly 300 plate appearances at the time of this writing. He stays balanced throughout his minimalist swing mechanics, and proponents are hopeful that he can reach 15-plus home runs annually at maturity, along with some on-base production, even if the average lags some. While the struggles on the Cape will undoubtedly dampen his stock with some clubs, his post-season performance – and strong Spring overall – should make him a safe bet for selection somewhere in the top two rounds.
Drew Waters, CF, Etowah (Woodstock, GA)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/190 B/T: B/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 18y, 5m
Waters shows impact tools with his speed, arm and glove, along with a solid offensive profile that could see the Georgia commit hitting for both average and power at maturity. A switch-hitter capable of producing loud contact from both sides of the plate, Waters isn’t quite a “thumper”, but can show above-average raw power to the pull side from the left side and is capable of driving the opposite field gap from the right side.
Waters profiles as a surefire up-the-middle defender who will offer value with the glove and with his speed, giving him a very sturdy foundation upon which to build the profile. There are better pure hitters and better pure power bats in the draft, but Waters’s balanced profile and solid approach fit nicely to provide a rare combination of safety and upside for a prep positional talent. He looks like a lock for selection on Day One – most likely in the supplemental-first or second round.
Quentin Holmes, OF, Monsignor McClancy (East Elmhurst, NY)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/180 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 17y, 11m
Holmes is one of the more explosive runners in the draft class, boasting true 80-grade speed. He’s not just a runner, however, as the Mississippi State commit will show solid reads in the grass and a mature approach on the basepaths, allowing him to make the most out of his game-changing burners. While the glove and the legs are impressive, Holmes lacks refinement in the box as a cold weather kid who isn’t afforded the same number of reps or caliber of competition as some of his warm-weather contemporaries.
Holmes won’t turn 18 until after the draft, giving him a little bit of room, developmentally, to spend some time on the complex and in Short-season A ball to get his hit tool up to speed and refine his overall approach. A quick-twitch athlete, proponents also believe there’s a little bit of juice to come in the barrel once the body finishes maturing and he’s able to barrel the ball more regularly. Holmes has a collection of tools that development staffs long to work with, making him a strong Day One option, and a solid fit from the supplemental-first-to-second round.
Brian Miller, CF, Univ. of North Carolina
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/186 B/T: L/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 9m
After playing first base for the Tar Heels last season, Miller has moved to center field this year where he’s more than held his own. New to the position, Miller’s outfield instincts are somewhat raw in reading the ball off the bat and running down fly balls, but he has the athleticism and closing speed to mitigate his mistakes. Offensively, Miller has good plate discipline, and a fluid left-handed swing that can spray balls to all fields, with moderate power to his pull side.
Miller’s carrying tool is his plus to double-plus speed, which he’s utilized to swipe 22 bases in 27 attempts this season. With a premium placed on up-the-middle talent, Miller has an outside shot to join teammates J.B. Bukauskas and Logan Warmoth in the first round, and in any event should be a lock for Day One.
Garrett Mitchell, OF, Orange Lutheran (Orange, CA)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/200 B/T: L/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 18y, 9m
Though his performance has been up-and-down at times this spring, Mitchell has one of the broadest and potentially impactful skill sets in the 2017 prep ranks. A plus to double-plus runner with solid arm strength and good instincts in center field, the UCLA commit looks like a lock to not only stick in center field but to provide some defensive value there along the way. He is a solid runner on the basepaths, demonstrating solid reads on balls in play and should be an asset both in grabbing the extra base when available, and as a threat to steal.
In the box, Mitchell boasts explosiveness in his wrists and good leverage in his swing, capable of producing hard line-drive contact to all fields while also showing surprising raw pop both to the pull side and to the oppo gap. He can get long and hitchy in the swing, and the barrel isn’t always on plane, limiting his contact window when he gets out of whack, mechanically. When clean through the zone, however, he has the potential to do damage. A team that believes they can help him to find more consistency in the box could pop him as early as the supplemental-first round, and the profile plays well in the top three rounds.
Cole Brannen, CF, The Westfield Schools (Perry, GA)
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/190 B/T: L/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 18y, 10m
A 2016 Perfect Game All-American, Brannen utilizes double-plus speed and a good nose for the ball to provide above-average defense up the middle in center field, projecting to plus defense at maturity. The Georgia Southern commit has enough arm strength to keep runners honest on balls to the gap, and is aided by a quick release and ability to rapidly close on the ball. On the bases the speed plays, as well.
Offensively, Brannen has a solid feel for the barrel, with a simple stroke that allows him to cover the quadrants and put the ball in play across the diamond. The raw pop is below average, but could play to low double-digit home run totals at maturity thanks to his quality bat speed, and there should be plenty of doubles and triples along the way to boost the damage numbers. Brannen profiles as a top three round talent with a good shot to come off the board on the draft’s first day.
Michael Gigliotti, CF, Lipscomb Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/180 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 3m
Gigliotti is a quick-twitch athlete with a lean, well-proportioned frame, and his carrying tool is his double-plus speed, which plays up both on the bases and in the outfield. An opportunistic baserunner, Gigliotti reads pitchers well, getting good jumps off of first base before accelerating into a graceful stride at peak speed. When he’s not bunting for a base hit – a skill that he’s perfected – the left-handed hitting Gigliotti employs a balanced, level swing capable of driving the ball to the pull side and spraying line drives to every part of the field.
Defensively, Gigliotti gets excellent reads off the bat, and uses his legs to get to balls that most other collegiate center fielders can’t run down, and his fringe-average arm has just enough carry in it to hold down the position. After a strong showing on the Cape, the Lipscomb star has struggled some this spring in a non-elite conference, dampening his stock some. If he can recover his stroke from last summer, a team good find itself getting excellent value for Gigliotti somewhere in the second or third round.
Luis Gonzalez, OF, Univ. of New Mexico
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/185 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 9m
Gonzalez put together a strong spring in 2017, slashing .361/.500/.589 for the Lobos, working his way into Day One conversations on the draft side and lining up well to come off the board somewhere in second to fourth rounds. An above-average runner with a good feel for contact and advanced approach at the plate, Gonzalez looks the part of a future leadoff or number two hitter capable of working the count, drawing walks, and maintaining high contact rates utilizing the entire field.
Defensively Gonzalez should have the tools to stick in center field long term, and the arm to handle right should he eventually need to shift to a corner. The power is below average, though he should be able to rack up some doubles driving the gaps. As a strong collegiate performer, Gonzalez has put himself in a position to be one of the first collegiate outfielders selected, with the upside of a borderline everyday first-division center fielder if the hit tool plays up to its potential.
Jake Mangum, CF, Mississippi State Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/185 B/T: B/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 3m
While teammate Brent Rooker (1B) has grabbed all the headlines with his offensive explosion this spring, Mangum has quietly put together a solid campaign himself, slashing .325/.382/.387 in just over 300 plate appearances. Mangum likewise showed a good feel for contact on the Cape last summer, batting .300 over 168 plate appearances. The biggest red flag for Mangum is his combination of aggression at the plate and lack of impact power, which has the potential to eat into his on-base production at the next level as more advanced arms may be inclined pound the zone against him without fear that he’ll do too much damage, even when he barrels the ball.
Mangum provides a nice bit of value with his glove and legs, however, as a plus or better runner who can go get it on the grass. This gives him some breathing room on the offensive side and allows for a fallback as a fourth-outfielder if the bat ultimately falls short of an everyday gig. Though not an impact bat, Mangum could garner attention in the third-to-fifth rounds as an up-the-middle glove with some feel for contact, with the upside of a down-order, glove-first center fielder.
Jordan Anderson, OF, Clemens (Madison, AL)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 18y, 6m
Anderson is underdeveloped in the box at present, but possesses loud tools in both his double-plus speed and plus arm strength, making him a weapon capable of impacting the game out in center field. There’s still some clean-up to be done in his reads and route running, but all of the building blocks are there for Anderson to grow into an above-average defender up the middle.
Anderson doesn’t yet make consistent hard contact at the plate, and struggles in both his pitch-ID and overall approach, forcing him to often work behind in the count and limiting his opportunities to do damage. Anderson has solid strength and projects to add more muscle at maturity, and despite some length to the swing can flash some explosiveness at contact when firing through his mechanical checkpoints on time. Anderson profiles as a solid fourth- or fifth-round option at present, but has the athleticism to develop into a true early-round target in three years should he opt to continue his development at Mississippi State.
Donovan Casey, OF, Donovan Casey
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/220 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 3m
Casey’s broad, muscular frame belies his double-plus speed – speed that plays very well in the outfield where his advanced feel and plus arm allow him to project as an above-average defender at the next level. Casey has the bat speed and raw strength to put a charge into the ball, though his swing can be inefficient at times, leaking energy prior to contact and eating into his raw power production.
The Boston College product profiles as a fourth outfielder capable of holding down all three positions at the next level. A team who believes they can harvest some untapped potential on the offensive side could grab him as early as the third round, though the profile fits better in the fourth or fifth round.
Kyle Jacobsen, OF, Allatoona (Allatoona, GA)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”185 B/T: R/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 19y, 0m
Jacobsen has blossomed this spring as a potential impact runner, breaking-off sub-4.1 second home-to-first times from the right side, and piquing scouts’ interest as an athletic talent who can flash some feel for the barrel while showcasing the building blocks for a future up-the-middle defender on the grass. It’s been easier for arms to disrupt Jacobsen’s timing this spring than in the past, including last year’s showcase circuit, though evaluators mostly still consider him to posses a future average hit tool with a chance to produce low double-digit home run totals.
The South Carolina commit fits as a fourth-to-sixth round selection but could be draft eligible again in just two years should he elect to take his game to Columbia. A team who saw him running hot during last year’s showcase circuit and buys into his upside as a five-tool center fielder could pop him early on a deal or free up some money to make a run at signing him in the later rounds if he slips.
Jared Oliva, OF, Univ. of Arizona
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/195 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 20y, 6m
Oliva has quietly developed into a capable defender in center with enough pop in the bat to drive the gaps and rack up doubles. The hit tool is fringy, with plenty of swing and miss presence t due to some coverage gaps, but he can drive the ball when he does barrel it up, making him a potential asset as a future six-hole hitter that can flirt with average home run power. As one of the younger draft-eligible collegians, there’s also a chance for a little more pro-level development than you might typically expect from a power-conference draftee. Oliva should be in play somewhere in the fourth-to-sixth rounds, and while the ceiling may not be extraordinary, he could be a useful player at the next level with a chance to grow into an everyday contributor.
Bryce Johnson, OF, Sam Houston State Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/180 B/T: S/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 7m
Johnson profiles as a future fourth outfielder, with the glove and foot speed to handle all three outfield positions and enough arm to hold down right field in limited action. At the plate, the Sam Houston State product excels at working the count, drawing walks, and drawing contact – whatever it takes to get on base. With little to no power in the profile, that on-base production will take a hit against advanced pro arms, but Johnson’s knack for finding his way to first along with his defensive profile could be enough to entice teams to roll the dice on him as early as the fourth or fifth round.
Pat DeMarco, OF, Winder-Barrow (Winder, GA)
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 19y, 3m
DeMarco has a chance to grow into a true five-tool talent, though each of his tools project closer to average than to plus. The slightly under-sized outfielder can flash surprising pop in the box, and shows an advanced enough approach to project to an average hit tool at maturity. He’s an above-average runner who handles himself well on the grass and should be able to stick in center field long term. Old for his class at 19 years old and, DeMarco is believed to have a strong commitment to Vanderbilt, the most logical developmental path for the Peach State product may be two years in Nashville with coach Tim Corbin and his staff, with a chance to emerge in 2019 as a safe early-round talent.