Feature Photo: MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Whiteville (Whiteville, NC)
POSITIONAL PREVIEW LINKS
There’s a solid crop of lefties in this 2017 Draft Class, including potential top ten selections in prep standout MacKenzie Gore (Whiteville) and Brendan McKay (Louisville). JuCo hurler Brendon Little (State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota) and Oregon ace David Peterson could also hear their names called in the first round, along with prep southpaws DL Hall (Valdosta) and Trevor Rogers (Carlsbad). One of the draft’s biggest wildcards, former Houston Cougar Seth Romero, was getting top ten buzz before undergoing multiple suspensions and ultimately expulsion from the team this spring for off-field issues. He’s projecting anywhere from the mid-first round to early on Day Two, depending on the day.
MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Whiteville (Whiteville, NC)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/180 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 18y, 3m
Already one of the top prep arms entering the high school season, Gore took his game to the next level this spring, showing the potential for four offerings that grade out as at least above average in his fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. Gore is extremely athletic with plus body control, allowing him to hit his spots on both sides of plate and projecting to above-average to plus command at maturity.
With a high leg kick and good explosiveness through his release, Gore combines an easy arm action with deception, causing the ball to jump on hitters. He does a good job of staying uniform in his release and arm action with each of his offerings, making it difficult to pick up secondaries out of his hand. Gore is a talent worthy of consideration with the first overall pick in the draft, and while the 2016 Perfect Game All-American may not climb quite that high on draft day, he should be a lock to come off the board in the first five picks. When all is said and done, the East Carolina commit could boast a double-plus fastball to go with above-average to plus secondaries across the board, all in an ultra-athletic package with above-average to plus command. That’s a true front-end starter if he gets there.
Winding down one of the more storied collegiate careers ever, McKay is showing signs that he might be tiring after over 300 innings as the ace of the Louisville staff. In the final weeks of the regular season and through the ACC Tournament, McKay showed uncharacteristically shaky command, while also struggling to maintain his velocity deep into starts. At his best on the mound, McKay works 90-to-93 mph with a clean and easy delivery, a plus curveball with 1-to-7 movement and an average, but inconsistent changeup.
A legitimate two-way prospect, McKay is one of the best pure hitters in the class, showing significant feel for barrel as a smooth-swinging first basemen. Over 258 plate appearances McKay has slashed .351/.473/.673, with 45 walks to just 35 strikeouts and 31 of his 72 hits going for extra bases. The one significant concern with McKay in the box is whether or not his power will play in-game at the highest level, as his pop was underwhelming with wood last summer with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and only a handful of his 17 home runs this spring have come against top arms (Friday/Saturday starters). Regardless of whether he’s selected as a pitcher or a position player, he should be given the opportunity to hit this summer, as he’ll likely be shut down on the mound following the heavy collegiate workload. He’s in the mix for the Twins with the first overall pick and should be a lock to go somewhere in the top ten.
David Peterson, LHP, Univ. of Oregon
Ht/Wt: 6’6”/215 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 9m
Though already a steady contributor throughout his first two seasons in Eugene, complete with two stints on USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, Peterson took his game to a new level in 2017, pitching to an 11-4 record and 2.51 ERA while striking out 140 hitters compared to just 15 walks over 100.1 innings (12.56 SO/9). Peterson’s season reached its apex when he struck out 20 in a complete game gem against Arizona State on April 28th.
The southpaw commands a low-90s fastball to both sides of the plate and particularly well down in the zone, utilizing an above-average slider as his best secondary offering. Peterson rounds out his repertoire with a changeup that flashes above average, and a developing curveball that is effective as a drop-in strike or change-of-pace pitch. After the strong performance this season and given the steady execution of his solid arsenal, Peterson has positioned himself securely in the first round.
Were Hall a few inches taller he would likely find himself discussed as a potential top ten target along with fellow prep lefty MacKenzie Gore. Nevertheless, the Florida State commit has established himself as one of the top hurlers in the draft class, wielding a fastball/curveball combo that projects to plus at maturity and already flashes there, as well as what should be a solid-average changeup in time, coming with deception and some tumble.
Hall’s arm works well and when he’s hitting his mechanical checkpoints he looks the part of a future mid-rotation arm that should be able to miss plenty of bats. His command and execution can waiver at times, though he should find more consistency in his mechanics as he continues to get stronger. The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team alum could come off the board in the first round and is an easy Day One fit based on the profile.
Brendon Little, LHP, State (Junior) College of Florida (Manatee-Sarasota)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/195 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 20y, 10m
After struggling to find innings in Chapel Hill last season, Little transferred to the State College of Florida following a breakout summer on the Cape. The hard-throwing lefty sports a plus to double-plus fastball that consistently works in the mid- to upper-90s velo band, and pairs with it a hard low-80s power curve with sharp bite and impressive depth. There’s some effort in Little’s arm and his control can come and go, but the lefty produces good angle on his offerings and has the stuff to get out big league hitters right now out of the bullpen.
The big question surrounding the hard-throwing JuCo standout is whether or not he can stick as a starter, long term. He can struggle to execute consistently over longer stretches, and his changeup will need further refinement in order to play at the highest level. Still, Little shows athleticism and good feel on the bump, and enough teams view him as a potential starter that he should be in play during the first round and a lock to go on Day One. Should he land with a playoff competitor on draft day, he could find himself contributing out of a big league pen later this summer before returning to the minors to finish his development as a starter the following year.
Trevor Rogers, LHP, Carlsbad (Carlsbad, NM)
Ht/Wt: 6’6”/185 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 19y, 7m
Rogers has been a steady riser this spring, thanks to an above-average to plus fastball and quality slider that he hurls from a tough angle out of his 6-foot-6 frame. The Texas Tech commit is one of the oldest prep talents in the draft class, turning 20 this upcoming November, but has plenty of physical projection left in his long and broad frame, leaving evaluators excited at the possible jump in stuff that could still accompany his physical maturation. He’ll also flash a developing curveball and changeup, rounding out a potential four-pitch mix.
Nailing down Rogers’s draft stock is tough, as he gets mentioned as a potential pick in the top half of the first round, though his present stuff and the developmental difficulties that can come with grooming a limby prep arm point to a better fit in the late-to-supplemental-first. To his benefit, Rogers has an easy arm and works through his mechanics without too much effort, helping him to stay relatively consistent in the zone. He appears to be a Day One lock, but he could come off the board literally anywhere from the top ten overall picks down through the second round.
NAMES TO KNOW
Seth Romero, LHP, No School
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/240 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 1m
One of the bigger wildcards in the draft, Romero was suspended multiple times during his tenure at the University of Houston before ultimately getting himself kicked off the team following an altercation with a teammate. When on the field, Romero was as dominant as anyone in college baseball, leading the circuit with a 15.72 SO/9 ratio. Prior to his exodus, Romero looked like a potential top 10 overall pick, setting up hitters with a mid-90s fastball before finishing them off with a hard-biting, plus slider.
Conditioning has been in issue in the past for the big bodied Romero, though he firmed up a little prior to the 2017 season. Despite missing precious innings and opportunities to be evaluated down the stretch following his dismissal, Romero’s upside could tempt organizations to take a chance on him on the draft’s first day, and perhaps as early as the mid-to-late first round depending on how heavily his off-field antics will weigh into teams’ decision making.
Heatherly combines good athleticism and a balanced arsenal, including an above-average to plus fastball that can reach as high as 95 mph, but works more regularly in the 89-to-93 mph range. His best secondary is probably his upper-70s to low-80s slider, though he’ll also show a low-70s, soft-breaking curve with soft action but solid depth. His changeup works anywhere from the upper 70s to the low 80s and can flash solid dive.
The Alabama commit is physically mature, with some room left to tighten his physique and add some muscle to assist with durability over the long haul. There likely isn’t tons of room for the stuff to jump, but through simply refining his present arsenal Heatherly could end up with a plus fastball and an average-or better-changeup and slider at maturity – good for a solid number four starter’s projection. He should be in play as early as the second round and fits comfortably in the top 100 picks.
Shane Drohan, LHP, Cardinal Newman (West Palm Beach, FL)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/190 B/T: R/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 18y, 5m
Drohan is an intriguing talent with lots of projection remaining in his stuff thanks to his loose athletic actions and some room in his 6-foot-2 frame to continue to add strength. His fastball frequently works in the low 90s in the early innings before settling into the 88-to-90 mph velo band later on. His best pitch at present is a tight spinning curveball with good shape and solid bite, and he also shows feel for a quality changeup with solid arm-speed deception and fade.
A Florida State commit, Drohan could be a huge get for the Seminoles if he slips far enough in the draft to make it onto campus, capable of stepping into a starting role as early as next spring. If teams believe they can pry him away from Tallahassee, they should come calling in the top three rounds.
Jake Eder, LHP, Matlock Prep (West Palm Beach, FL)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/210 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 18y, 8m
An Under Armour All-American last summer, Eder possesses a durable build and big arm strength, showing low-90s fastball velocity and reaching as high as 94-to-95 mph this spring. The rest of his repertoire lags at present, with a two-plane breaking ball serving as his best secondary offering, though it lacks consistent bite and shape. He’ll flash a rudimentary changeup that can come with late dive when he turns it over properly.
There’s effort in the arm action, leaving some evaluators to project a future in the pen. Eder is committed to Vanderbilt, where he could follow past live-armed underclassmen by working out of the pen to start before transitioning into a starting role during his sophomore and junior seasons. Projecting anywhere from the second to fourth round, he may not come off the board early enough to draw him away from Nashville, but a team who likes the arm strength and big durable build could take a flier on him as early as Day One.
Daniel Tillo, LHSP, Iowa Western CC
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/215 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 20y, 11m
In addition to baseball, Tillo stared on the hardwood at Sioux City North High School, earning Iowa’s “Mr. Basketball” award in 2015 before attending Kentucky to concentrate on baseball. After pitching sparingly as a freshman, Tillo returned to his home state to attend Iowa Western Community College. He throws a sinking fastball that sits in the low-90s that he’s able to run up to 96-to-97 mph when needed. He pair with the heater a hard slider that flashes plus, and a seldom used and still-developing changeup.
Though he battled minor injuries down the stretch, 6-foot-5 lefties with heavy plus fastballs remain a highly sought after commodity, and Tillo is no different. He figures to be selected early on Day Two, making it unlikely he’ll follow through on his Arkansas commitment next season. Though most would like to see him start at the next level, some proponents believe he is destined for the pen long term and might as well transition early, allowing his plus fastball/slider combination to push him quickly through the minors.
Zac Lowther, LHP, Xavier Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/235 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 1m
Lowther starred in the Cape Cod Baseball League last summer, recording a league-best 54 strikeouts in just 35 2/3 innings. Broad shouldered but thick throughout his chest and legs, Lowther offers minimal remaining projection on his big frame, but is already plenty sturdy to project to a starting role at the next level. Employing an abbreviated windup, Lowther gets great deception by staying closed throughout a compact delivery and mid-to-low-three-quarters release point.
Though the fastball possesses only fringe-average velocity at 88-to-89 mph and peaks at 91 mph, its effectiveness is amplified by Lowther’s ability to locate to both sides of the plate. While he does miss some bats with his fastball, Lowther’s curveball is his true out-pitch against both right- and left-handed hitters alike. With 1-to-7 shape and sharp snap, Lowther can get this pitch over for a strike early in counts, while also demonstrating the ability to bury it the dirt to generate swinging strikes in high-leverage situations. He profiles as a third-or-fourth rounder, and could come off the board a bit earlier on a deal considering his track record and the value of left-handed collegiate performers.
Seth Lonsway, LHP, Celina (Celina, OH)
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/195 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 18y, 8m
Though Lonsway’s modest height and athletic, well-proportioned frame offer little remaining projection, there’s plenty to like about his quick left-handed arm. A cold-weather Midwest arm, Lonsway managed to bring heat this spring, sitting 91-to-93 mph with his fastball and touching as high as 94 mph on multiple occasions. The Ohio State commit’s curveball is an inconsistent offering, sometimes lacking shape while other times flashing plus potential with sharp snap and late break. He has feel for a changeup, as well – a potential average pitch that shows occasional arm-side fade.
Lonsway is an unfinished product, with presently below-average control and inconsistent secondary pitches, but he has the upside of a back-of-the-rotation starter. He fits in the third-to-fifth round range, and should he follow through on his Ohio State commitment he would immediately step in as one of the better arms on their roster.
Brendan Murphy, LHP, Mundelein (Mundelein, IL)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/200 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 18y, 5m
Murphy is thickly built physical specimen, with room still left in his 6-foot-4 frame to add additional muscle. The arm works well, producing easy upper-80s to low-90s velocity with his fastball that could settle into the 91-to-95 mph velo band at maturity. The Arizona State commit shows very good feel for an above-average changeup that he throws with arm speed and arm action that dovetails that of his fastball, making it very tough to pick up.
He’s still feeling for his breaking pitch, currently working with a soft curveball that lacks consistent bite. Some evaluators feel his arm slot and action is a cleaner fit for a slider, while others believe he’ll ultimately wind up somewhere in between with an upper-70s slurve. Regardless, there’s a lot to like with a big-bodied lefty that already shows feel for a quality fastball/changeup combo and possesses room for his stuff to project out further. He should be in play early on in Day Two and could come off the board as soon as the third round.
Hugh Fisher, LHP, Briarcrest Christian (Memphis, TN)
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/185 B/T: R/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 18y, 4m
Though most believe Fisher’s commitment to Vanderbilt will prevent teams selecting him in the early rounds, he remains a dark horse to come off the board early on Day Two for what would have to be an over-slot deal. Hugely projectable and already capable of showing low-90s velocity and reaching as high as 94 mph, Fisher is the definition of a projection play. His curveball is a soft breaker at present, but can flash quality spin and good shape. With additional strength, it’s not difficult to envision the pitch growing into an above-average to plus weapon. He already shows some feel for a changeup and should be able to work the pitch into at least an average offering at maturity.
Should Fisher make his way to Nashville he’d be an early favorite to emerge as a one of the better collegiate arms in the 2020 class. The odds are against him being drafted and signed, but if a team has the extra cash and is willing to bet on Fisher’s projectable profile and the clubs developmental staff it could wind-up with a steal in the third or fourth round.
Asa Lacy, LHP, Tivy (Kerrville, TX)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/190 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 18y, 0m
Lacy could be a projection play for teams looking to nab a lefty starter with number four upside. His fastball and changeup already flash average or better, with the former working 87-to-91 mph with regularity and the latter showing hard fade and good deception with an 8-to-10 mph velo delta off the heater. His curveball is still in the nascent stages, but he has flashed some feel for the offering in the past and could tease it up to an average offering with continued instruction and reps.
The raw stuff doesn’t jump out at present, but given the value of quality lefty arms it’s not difficult to envision a team popping Lacy early on Day Two if they think they can sign him away from Texas A&M. If he slips past the fourth or fifth round, he might also be a name to keep an eye on for teams with extra cash floating around and looking to make a run on an over-slot pick or two in the later stages of Day Two.
Seth Corry, LHP, Lone Peak (Highland, UT)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/195 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 18y, 7m
Corry’s best asset is his above-average curveball, which comes with good bite and quality spin, capable of missing bats in and out of the zone. He can reach as high as 94 mph with the fastball, working more regularly in the 89-to-92 mph range, and also shows a developing changeup that looks like a future average offering.
There’s some effort in Corry’s arm and he has trouble repeating his mechanics, resulting in his missing his release and struggling to keep the ball in the zone. There’s lot to like with a strong build and chance for three solid offerings, but he will need to refine his actions and execution if he’s to make it as a starter, long term. His name has been discussed as early as the third round, and he should fit cleanly somewhere in the top five rounds. He’s currently committed to BYU.
Evan Steele, LHP, Chipola (Junior) College
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/201 B/T: R/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 20y, 7m
Steele stands out for his big 6-foot-5 frame and potential for a plus fastball/slider combo at maturity. Presently, his heater works comfortably in the low 90s and regularly climbs as high as 95 mph. He can show two different looks with his slider, including a slurvy two-plane breaker with depth and a tighter, more horizontal version that he can both back door and run in on the hands of righty bats.
Steele rounds out the repertoire with a solid changeup that can come a little to firm at times, but shows enough promise to project as a potential average offering down the line. There are some concerns relating to both workload and some medical issues this spring, but Steele is a big lefty with the chance for three big league offerings, making him a good bet to come off the board in the top five rounds.
David Parkinson, LHP, Univ. of Mississippi
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/215 B/T: R/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 6m
Parkinson lacks a true plus offering, but brings to the table four average or better weapons from the left side and a strong build that should help him shoulder a pro starter’s workload at the next level. His repertoire is anchored by an average fastball that works consistently in the 88-to-92 mph range, and is particularly effective down in the zone where he gets some additional arm-side action. He can break off a distinct slider and curveball, showing different looks with his breaking balls and mixing them well both early and late in the count. He rounds out the arsenal with a solid changeup.
Should Parkinson struggle to turn over lineups at the upper levels, some evaluators believe his fastball and slider could play up a full grade if he were to blow it out in short stints out of the pen. Parkinson should get attention in the fourth to sixth round range and could be good value anywhere outside of the top 125 or so picks.
Oliver Jaskie, LHP, Univ. of Michigan
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/215 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 6m
Jaskie possesses a durable build and solid fastball/changeup combo that could play well in the back end of a rotation or as a multi-inning reliever. His heater lacks premium velocity, working primarily in the 88-to-91 mph range, but he works it well to both sides of the plate and the quality of his low-80s changeup helps the fastball to play up. His slider is a below-average offering that too often saucers in the zone, playing as a hittable BP fastball.
If he can tighten up the breaking ball to an average offering Jaskie could profile as an innings-eating number four or five starter. If the slider never gets there he could still be useful out of the pen off the strength of his fastball and changeup alike. He profiles as a fit in the fourth-to-sixth round range.
Logan Salow, LHP, Univ. of Kentucky
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/185 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 22y, 8m
As a high-performance senior, Salow should have plenty of teams lighting up his phone early on Day Two trying to gauge his signability. Off the strength of a low-90s fastball and hard mid-80s slider, which plays at times as a shorter upper-80s power cutter, Salow has the tools to fill a lefty slot out of the pen at the next level, though some evaluators would like to see him stretched out in a starter’s role since he also shows feel for an average changeup.
He should be a lock to come off the board in the first five rounds at a senior discount, though he likely fits in the fourth-to-sixth round range on talent alone so it’s difficult to gauge just how much money a team might be able to save by targeting this particular senior early.