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Check out our 2018 Draft Spotlight Library for more notes on the top prospects in the 2018 MLB Draft Class.
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Last weekend Burke Granger was in Lexington to take in a big series between the Florida Gators and the Kentucky Wildcats. Below are spotlights on three players who stood out.
Jonathan India, 3B, Univ. of Florida
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/195 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 5m
Highly regarded out of national prep powerhouse American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.), India has been a mainstay in the Gators’ lineup since stepping foot on campus. After a solid, but unspectacular first two years in Gainesville, India entered the season as a potential late day one draft choice, but he’s since hit his way into the first round. Through 40 games, India’s .420/.551/.840 slash line leads the Southeastern Conference in each of those categories by sizable margins. India didn’t have his best showing over the weekend against Kentucky, going 2-for-10 with three walks and four strikeouts, though both of his hits did go for extra bases.
India has seen time at both third base and shortstop over his collegiate career, but he profiles best at the hot corner where his athleticism and above-average arm will be an asset. Starting with a slightly open stance, with his hands in front and aligned with his back shoulder, India progresses into a moderate load that coincides with a high leg kick. Though he’s modestly sized at 6-feet and 200 pounds, India has torque and plus bat speed that produces above-average raw power to all fields that plays in batting practice and in games. India struggled with pitch recognition in the Kentucky series, looking unbalanced and uncomfortable against off-speed stuff away. When he’s at his best, India controls the barrel well, adequately covering the plate and making consistent hard contact.
Teams find solace in the perceived safety of college bats, and India’s dominance in the toughest conference in the country likely means that he’ll likely be one of the first hitters off the board on June 4th.
Brady Singer, RHP, Univ. of Florida
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/200 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 10m
Florida traveled to Lexington on Thursday, where Singer shut down a Kentucky team that’s currently leading the Southeastern Conference in both On-Base Percentage (.411) and Slugging Percentage (.511). Over seven innings, Singer held the Wildcats to just two runs on three hits, while striking out 10 and walking one, in front of a gaggle of national evaluators.
Using an abbreviated windup and an up-tempo delivery, Singer consistently pounds the zone with three pitches. Singer employs a low three-quarter’s arm slot, and while it nullifies some of the downhill plane on the 91-to-93 mph fastball, the lower release point appears to enhance the sink and arm-side tail of the pitch. Where Singer separates himself from his collegiate peers is the confidence he shows in pitching inside, placing his fastball in on the hands of righties and lefties alike. He’s also comfortable using his slider in any count. At 79-to-81 mph, with moderate depth and two-plane break, Singer’s slider looked like a future average pitching in the outing, with its effectiveness stemming more from his command of the pitch than its tilt. Though it’s seldomly used in comparison with his slider, Singer’s changeup flashed plus, neutralizing left-handed hitters with tumble out of the zone and arm speed that replicates his fastball.
Though there’s some debate within the industry whether Singer or teammate Jackson Kowar represent the best draft prospect in the Gators rotation, they’re both squarely in the first round. The strong performance in front of a bunch of front office heat presently gives Singer the edge.
Jackson Kowar, RHP, Univ. of Florida
Ht/Wt: 6’6”/185 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 8m
While it’s natural to compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of Kowar with Brady Singer, it’s indicative of Kevin O’Sullivan’s embarrassment of riches that Kowar, with his career 22-2 record, and 3.45 ERA over 205 innings logged, is merely considered Florida’s “other” ace. On Friday, he held a potent Kentucky offense scoreless over seven innings, striking out five, while allowing five hits and four walks in route to a 9-4 Gator’s win.
At 6-foot-6 and 185 pounds, Kowar has a wiry build, with narrow sloping shoulders. Though his abbreviated delivery is rather simplified, like many tall and long levered pitchers, Kowar has trouble repeating his delivery which leads to below average control. Kowar generates plus velocity on his fastball at 92-to-95 mph, thanks in large part to a lightning quick arm while incorporating almost no part of his lower body. Kowar’s height, combined with his mid three-quarter arm slot, creates ample downhill plain, though he needs to locate the ball in the lower quadrants of the zone more consistently to be effective. The curveball flashed above average, with sharp 11-to-5 movement and average depth, while his changeup, looked like a future plus pitch. Thrown with good separation off his fastball at 81-to-83 mph and arm-side fade, this was Kowar’s most effective swing-and-miss offering.
Flashing three pitches that rate above-average or better, it’s entirely possible that Kowar has a higher ceiling than Singer, but he also has a lower floor if he’s unable to reign in his struggles with both his command and his control. Regardless, there’s enough appeal in the profile to warrant a mid-first round selection.