2018 MLB Draft Positional Previews: Center Field

Jarred Kelenic plays in the 2017 Area Code Games on August 6-10, 2017 at Blair Field in Long Beach, California (Bill Mitchell)

Featured Photo: Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha West (Waukesha, Wisc.)

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2018 MLB Draft Video Library | 2018 MLB Draft Spotlight Library

Positional Preview Series

Catcher | Middle Infield | Corner Infield
Center Field | Corner Outfield
Left-Handed Pitcher | Right-Handed Pitcher

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(Potential Day 1 Targets)

Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha West (Waukesha, Wisc.)
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/190            B/T: L/R           Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 11m
Video | Video 2 | Video 3 | Video 4 

Kelenic had a great summer, consistently proving to be one of the more complete players in this class. While many of his peers were selling out for raw power during batting practice on the showcase circuit, Kelenic was taking a professional swings, barreling the ball to all fields with a balanced and fluid swing. Equal parts bat speed and sheer strength, the ball jumps off Kelenic’s bat, capable of generating 104 mph exit velocities and producing plus power.

Already a physical talent, Kelenic has maintained his flexibility and plus speed while increasing his strength. His athleticism gives him a chance to stick in center field, though his 60-grade arm would also play in a corner, as well. Evaluators have little questions Kelenic is ready for the grind of pro ball, as the Louisville commit graduated early from high school and devoted the spring entirely to baseball workouts and travel ball. A true five tool talent, we view Kelenic as one of the top five players in this class.

Travis Swaggerty, OF, Univ. of South Alabama
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/180          B/T: L/L           Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 20y, 9m

Swaggerty was a catalyst for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team last summer, slashing .328/.449/.406 and swiping six bags in seven steal attempts. He continued to impress evaluators this spring with his improved pop (13 homeruns) and his ability to get on base (.455 OBP and 19% walk rate). Though he’s south of 6-foot, the athletically built Swaggerty rotates his hips tremendously well to generate torque with an uppercut swing that produces average raw power.

There’s some pre-swing noise in Swaggerty’s hands, which contribute to some swing-and-miss, though his feel for the strike zone should continue to help him get on base as a professional. Swaggerty is a good bet to stick in center, getting excellent jumps and using his plus speed to run down balls in the gaps, and his above average arm has carry and accuracy to each base.

Nicholas Schnell, OF/RHP, Roncalli (Indianapolis, Ind.)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/180            B/T: L/R           Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 2m
Video | Video 2

Schnell is one of the more balanced prep players in this class, with each of his tools grading out as average or better. While he was solid on the summer circuit, his stock really began to soar this spring, which included a standout performance at the Prep Baseball Report Midwest Select showcase in front of more than a dozen regional and national evaluators. Schnell has a lean, well-proportioned frame, with athleticism that translates well onto the diamond.

Schnell reads the ball well off the bat and has closing speed to run down balls in either gap. His arm is a plus tool, capable of touching 94 mph on the bump. A left-handed hitter, Schnell shows feel for barrel, routinely driving balls into the left-center field gap. When putting the ball in play, he produces plus run times to first base and a long fluid stride on the base paths. Though Louisville has a strong track record for getting Midwestern recruits to school, Schnell has played himself into first round consideration, rendering it unlikely he makes it to campus.

Jameson Hannah, OF, Dallas Baptist Univ.
Ht/Wt: 5’10”/185          B/T: L/L           Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 20y, 10m

Though he’s has been standout performer since his arrival at Dallas Baptist, Hannah has elevated his game yet again this season. As the Patriots prepare for regional play, the junior is slashing .360/.444/.555 with as many walks (35) as strikeouts (35) on his way to Missouri Valley All-Conference honors. Hannah’s most appealing attribute is his exceptional athleticism, which is evident in all facets of his game.

The diminutive outfielder demonstrates quick hands with a level left-handed swing and a contact-oriented approach, though he’s strong enough to flash average power thanks to above-average bat speed. He produces above-average-to-plus run times, to first base, but he’s not terribly aggressive when he gets on, stealing just eight bags thus far this season. Hannah should be an asset in center field at the next level, despite just average arm strength, thanks to his feel and reads, and should come off the board somewhere in the top 50 picks (and perhaps as high as the mid-to-late first round).

Connor Scott, OF/LHP, Plant (Orlando, Fla.)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/185            B/T: L/L           Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 8m

Though Scott missed some time over the summer when he had his appendix removed, his talent was self-evident in the events in which he did participate. A Perfect Game All-American, Scott’s carrying tool is his plus-to-double-plus speed, capable of producing sub-4.1 home-to-first times from the left side. Eschewing batting gloves, Scott has a “throwback” feel to his offensive game to go along with his feel for barrel and line drive stroke. Despite some length to the swing, Scott is able to utilize his bat speed and impressive hand-eye coordination to barrel up more than his share of balls.

Tall and thin, Scott flashes average power with potential to add more strength as he fills out. His defensive game needs refinement if he’s going to stick up the middle, but he possesses all the requisite tools to aid in that development. As a two-way player who sits in the low 90s on the mound, Scott’s arm is an asset in the outfield which would play in right field if he needs to move from the center pasture. Though most teams prefer Scott as an outfielder, he could be used in a two-way capacity should he follow through on his commitment to Florida.

Alek Thomas, OF, Mount Carmel (Chicago, Ill.)
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/179          B/T: L/L           Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 1m
Video | Video 2 | Video 3 | Video 4 | Video 5

Thomas has grown up around the game, as his father Allen is the strength and conditioning director for the Chicago White Sox. He helped set the table for USA Baseball’s gold medal 18U squad last September, slashing .361/395/.389 and going a perfect five-for-five in stolen base attempts over the nine-game WBSC World Cup. When Thomas is on, he looks the part of a top of the order hitter, with average power playable to the gaps and capable of producing 35-plus doubles a year to go with high contact rates. When he’s pressing, his barrel path can get inconsistent, resulting in soft contact and some imbalance in the box.

The arm is below-average, but his range and feel in the outfield give him an excellent chance to stick in center field long term. A multi-sport athlete, Thomas is committed to TCU, where he’s slated to play both football and baseball. Thomas looks to be a good fit in the top 50 or so selections and has been linked to multiple teams from the mid-to-late first round through the early second. 

Jake McCarthy, OF, Univ. of Virginia
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/200            B/T: L/L           Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 20y, 10m
Video | Video 2 | Video 3

As a sophomore in 2017, McCarthy set the table for first round bats Pavin Smith and Adam Hasely, slashing .338/.425/.506 while using his plus speed to lead the ACC with 27 stolen bases. Though he struggled with the Collegiate National Team last summer, McCarthy entered the season with the potential to be a first round pick based on his underclass performance and opportunity to flash his leather in center field.

While the talented outfielder missed a large portion of the season with a broken wrist, there’s still a chance he comes off the board in the top 50 picks or so due to the strong collegiate track record and solid up-the-middle profile. McCarthy has a level cut with above-average bat speed that plays well to all fields, though it lacks fluidity and he doesn’t elevate the ball to hit for much present power. The raw materials are here to produce an average MLB center fielder, but it will likely come after some pro development – particularly in the box where McCarthy will need to better leverage his strength and drive the ball with more regularity.

Kyler Murray, OF, Univ. of Oklahoma
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/195          B/T: R/R          Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 20y, 10m 

Also a quarterback for Oklahoma where backed up Heisman Trophy winner and eventual #1 pick in the NFL Draft Baker Mayfield, it’s not surprising that Murray is one of the best athletes in this draft class. On the baseball field, Murray struggled mightily as a redshirt freshman last season and again in the Cape Cod League where he slashed just .170/.273/.277 while striking out in nearly 40% of his at-bats. He’s elevated his game this spring, however, posting a .954 OPS with 46% of his hits going for extra bases.

There’s still significant swing-and-miss issues in Murray’s game, but when he connects, the contact is explosive. There’s not as much rawness Murray’s defensive game as one might expect, as he gets good jumps and can run down any ball in the vicinity. He lacks carry on his throws at present but should be able to tease out at least average arm strength as he refines his throwing mechanics to more of a pure baseball action. Considered a tough sign away from football, Murray’s landing spot is difficult to peg and expected to come with a sizeable signing bonus.

Mike Siani, OF/LHP, William Penn Charter (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/190            B/T: L/L           Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 11m
Video | Video 2 | Video 3 | Video 4

A Virginia commit, Siani shined for the USA Baseball 18U team in the fall, slashing .333/.409/.487 while leading the team with seven stolen bases in eight attempts. Siani is one of the best defensive center fielders in this class, leaving little doubt that he can remain up the middle as a professional. He possesses uncommon instincts for a prep player, which when coupled with his excellent reads and plus speed, allows him to cover more ground than his peers. With carry and accuracy to each base, Siani’s arm gives him a third potential plus tool. Used as an impromptu pitcher in the extra innings of the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field, Siani worked in the low 90’s on the mound.

Though the bat is behind the glove at this point, Siani has a good feel for the strike zone and a balanced swing capable of driving the ball into the gaps. There is some swing-and-miss to Siani’s game, most notably when he’s trying to tap into his average power, but he also shows a keen ability to shorten up, put balls in play and show off his speed.  There’s some danger that if he slips too far he’ll be tough sign away from three years in Charlottesville. With some questions revolving around the hit tool, Siani probably fits best as an over-slot target somewhere in the supplemental-first or second round.

Jordyn Adams, OF, Green Hope (Cary, NC)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/180               B/T: R/R       Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 7m
Video | Video 2

A star wide receiver on the gridiron, Adams is committed to play both football and baseball at North Carolina. After an up and down summer, which peaked with a walk off single in the Under Armour All-America Game, Adams was viewed as a potential top 100 prospect. He has improved his game this spring, highlighted by a standout performance at the USA Baseball National High School Invitational, and pushed his draft stock squarely into day one territory. While he still may be a difficult sign away from Chapel Hill, where his dad is an assistant coach for the football team, he’s now in the discussion for a high enough pick (and high enough bonus) to at least make it a difficult decision.

Though he’s far from a finished product, Adams has more polish than one would expect from a kid splitting his time among multiple sports. He gets good reads out in the grass and uses his elite speed to run down balls in the gaps. His arm is fringy at present, but most project it to tick up enough as he matures for it to play in center long term. With the bat, Adams’ game lacks consistency. An exaggerated leg kick contributes to some timing issues and difficult cycling up and down against high-end velocity and quality off-speed stuff. When he’s on, however, Adams uses his above-average bat speed to spray line drives with particular impact to the pull side. His present power is fringe-average, though there’s untapped potential for more as he continues to add strength to an athletic frame.

Parker Meadows, OF/RHP, Grayson (Loganville, Ga.)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/195            B/T: L/R           Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 7m

The brother of Pirates prospect Austin Meadows, Parker is committed to Clemson just as Austin was before Pittsburgh nabbed him with the 9th pick in the 2013 draft. While Parker hasn’t matched the top 10 buzz of his brother, he’s a good bet to get selected early enough to render it unlikely that he sets foot on campus.

Meadows is tall and lean, with athleticism that’s present in all facets of his game. There’s some length in his lofty left-handed swing, which impacts his ability to square balls consistently – especially those on the inner half where Meadows is tasked with pulling in his long levers to get behind the baseball. When he does barrel the ball, however, it travels a long way, earning plus grades for raw pop. A plus runner, Meadows covers a lot of ground in center field with a long, fluid stride and can make the necessary throws from the gaps with an above-average arm.

Kyle Isbel, OF, Univ. of Nevada – Las Vegas
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/185            B/T: L/R           Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 3m

Though he was a Cape Cod League All-Star, Isbel struggled in the circuit over the summer, posting an OPS of just .683 with a strikeout to walk ratio of nearly three-to-one. He’s shown more pop and patience this spring, slashing .357/.441/.643 with 14 bombs and a 12.06% walk rate. He gets adequate plate coverage on a compact left-handed swing, though his power is below average despite the homerun surge this season.

He holds his own in center field, getting adequate reads off the bat and his plus speed is an asset in running down balls to both gaps. Isbel is relatively new to the outfield – having previously played third base and second base – with evaluators split as to whether he ultimately fits best in center, left, or perhaps even back on the dirt. He could come off the board as early as the top 50 picks and seems like lock for day one selection.

Zach Watson, OF, Louisiana State Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/166            B/T: R/R          Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 20y, 11m

Undrafted out of West Ouachita High School in West Monroe, Louisiana, Watson burst onto the scene in 2017, earning Freshman All-American honors from several publications while proving to be an integral part of the College World Series team. Over the summer, Watson raked his way through an abbreviated stint in the Northwoods League, slashing .342/.422/.605 over 10 games. Now a draft eligible sophomore, he sets the table for LSU as their leadoff hitter, producing a .304/.359/.470 line as the Tigers enter the NCAA tournament.

Watson’s level swing is short and direct to the ball, geared towards line drives. An aggressive hitter, Watson will need to learn to be more selective to continue to hit at the top of a batting order at the next level. The hope is that a more patient approach could lead to an uptick in walks, helping his plus-to-double-plus speed to play up through an increase in stolen base opportunities. He gets great jumps and runs efficient routes in center field and is a good bet to stick there long term, despite a fringy arm.

DaShawn Keirsey Jr., OF, Univ. of Utah
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/195            B/T: L/L           Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 0m

Keirsey broke his hip late last season, costing him his summer leading up to his junior year and limiting looks for evaluators. He returned this spring with a clean bill of health and turned in his best season of an accomplished collegiate career, slashing .394/.445/.621 while leading the Pac-12 with 23 doubles.

Keirsey has feel for the barrel with a contact-oriented approach, though it pushes his power more to the gaps than over-the-fence pop. He’s an above-average defender in center, showing solid fundamentals and a keen ability to track balls with efficient routes. Keirsey’s plus speed is an asset in the grass and on the bases. While the significance of his hip injury could give pause to some teams, his strong spring could push Keirsey into day one territory.



Gage Canning, OF, Arizona State Univ.
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/175          B/T: L/R           Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 1m 

While Canning has been an integral part of the Arizona State team throughout the duration of his tenor, his production really took off this spring as the junior slashed .369/.426/.648 while leading the Pac-12 with 87 hits and 11 triples. Canning has above-average bat speed and uses a level stroke to spray line drives to all fields. While there’s swing-and-miss to his game, Canning has doubled his walk rate this year. He’s a strong kid, but he needs to incorporate his lower half more in order to tap into anything more than below-average pop.

A plus-to-double-plus runner, Canning is capable of producing run times in the 4.0-to-4.05 range from the left side, though he doesn’t steal many bases. A corner outfielder for his first two seasons in Tempe, Canning has adjusted well to center field nicely. He’s got a quick first step in reading the ball off the bat, his speed is an asset in the grass, and his average arm is capable of making the necessary throws from the gaps.

Joe Gray Jr., OF, Hattiesburg (Hattiesburg, Miss.)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/195            B/T: R/R          Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 3m
Video | Video 2 | Video 3

Gray has one of the more appealing skillsets in this draft, though his raw collection of tools doesn’t consistently translate to on-field success. High-waisted and athletically built, Gray stands out before even picking up a bat or ball. There’s some swing-and-miss in Gray’s right-handed swing, but he’s got plus bat speed and a lofty plane which produces above-average-to-plus raw power to all fields when he connects. A rangy defender in center, Gray gets good jumps and tracks the ball well. He’s got a cannon for an arm – one of the best among outfielders in this class – grading out as a double-plus tool. The Ole Miss commit runs well too, producing above-average times to first base as well as a second gear underway due to a long fluid stride.

Alex McKenna, OF, California Polytechnic State Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/200            B/T: R/R          Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 20y, 9m

One of the more consistent performers for Y-D last summer, McKenna slashed .298/.346/.403 for the perennial Cape Cod power while providing added value as a steady glove and heady runner. He carried that momentum into the spring, where he produced a .339/.424/.506 line on his way to Big West Player of the Year honors. He won’t turn 21 until late summer and has room in his frame and swing to add to his present average power.

Jake Mangum, OF/LHP, Mississippi State Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/185            B/T: B/L           Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 3m

Mangum is among the best defensive center fielders in the class, wielding double-plus speed and near-prescient breaks to go with impressive closing ability and glove work. He has good feel for the barrel but below-average playable pop at present, as well as an at-times overly aggressive approach. Magnum has been solid this spring, slashing .353/.432/.475 with as many walks as strikeouts, and 14 stolen bases in 16 attempts.

Ryder Green, OF, Karns (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/195            B/T: R/R          Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 17y, 11m

Green has emerging power from the right side thanks to good strength, some bat speed and natural lift. The Vandy commit is an athletic and physical defender with above-average speed and a chance to stick in center, long term.

Brennen Davis, OF, Basha (Chandler, Ariz.)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/175            B/T: R/R          Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 7m 

Tall and thin with coat hanger shoulders, Davis is likely to gain strength as he matures which will augment his below-average power. Although he’s battled a hamstring issue for the majority of the spring, Davis is at least a plus runner with a long graceful stride that plays well on the bases and in the grass. He’s committed to Miami.

Grant Little, OF, Texas Tech
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/185            B/T: R/R          Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 2m

A draft eligible sophomore, Little has been a catalyst on very good Red Raider team, slashing .378/.477/.675 on his way to All Big-12 honors. He’s primarily worked out of left field this season, but he covers enough ground for center field as a professional where his fringy arm should be just enough for the position.

D.J. Artis, OF, Liberty Univ.
Ht/Wt: 5’10”/190          B/T: L/L           Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 2m

Artis grabbed Player of the Year honors in the Big South as a sophomore, slashing .359/.532/.552 as the table-setter for Liberty. While he didn’t repeat this season, he continued to display an appealing mix of on-base skills and plus speed. For his career, he has 166 walks compared to 107 strikeouts, and 72 stolen bases in 85 attempts.

Zaid Walker, OF, Homewood-Flossmoor (Homewood, Ill.)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/215            B/T: R/R          Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 7m
Video 1 | Video 2

Walker remains a work in progress, developmentally, but is already showing growth across his game as well as the emergence of impact tools. The Michigan State commit is a plus-plus runner underway, with above-average arm strength in the grass and an improving ability to close and finish on the ball. At the plate Walker can produce exit velocities upwards of 110 mph and should continue to improve his power production as his approach matures. He’s a worthy target in the fifth-to-seventh round range and could grow his stock greatly with further development through three years in East Lansing.

Korey Holland, OF, Langham Creek (TX)
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/170          B/T: R/R          Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 5m  

A Texas commit, Holland is a plus runner with a compact level right-handed stroke that’s geared more toward doubles than homeruns. He’s raw in the outfield, relying more on sheer athleticism than sound fundamentals.

Jimmy Herron, OF, Duke Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/195            B/T: R/L           Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 10m
Video | Video 2

Herron boasts a balanced profile anchored by plus to double-plus speed and a patient approach at the plate. He makes up some for his below-average arm with plus range and efficient routes. His batting average (.296) and OPS (.856) were both the lowest in his career, but he cut down on his strikeouts and increased his walks this season.

Max Marusak, OF, Amarillo (Amarillo, Texas)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/175            B/T: R/R          Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 7m 

Marusak’s speed is best in class, a true 80 tool which he uses both on the bases and to run down balls in center field. Though he’s got quick hands at the plate, the Texas Tech commits offensive profile is raw with notable swing and miss in his game.

Antoine Duplantis, OF, Louisiana State Univ.
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/180          B/T: L/R           Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 9m

Duplantis is a talented glove with an aggressive approach both in the field and at the plate. Though he plays right field in deference to teammate Zach Watson, his fringy arm doesn’t profile there professionally and he’s got a chance to slide over to center. The junior has slashed .337/.385/.455 with 17 stolen bases thus far this season, as the Tigers enter the NCAA tournament.

Jawuan Harris, OF, Rutgers Univ.
Ht/Wt: 5’9”/195          B/T: R/R          Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 7m 

A two-sport athlete, Jawuan Harris shines on both the gridiron and the diamond for Rutgers. As a freshman, he led the Scarlet Knights in receiving, hauling in 39 passes for 481 yards and three scores before transitioning to safety last season. He’s struggled with the bat this season, hitting just .246 with a 26.7% strikeout rate, but he used his double-plus speed to once again ranked among the Big Ten leaders in stolen bases with 22. He’s an above-average defender with a good chance to stick in center. 

Grant Witherspoon, OF, Tulane Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/200            B/T: L/L           Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 8m 

Witherspoon had an outstanding season for the Green Wave, slashing .330/.436/.587 with 12 homeruns on his way to all American Athletic Conference honors. Though he’s got a moderate ceiling, he’s got a diverse collection of average tools with a good chance to stick in center.

Kingston Liniak, OF, Mission Hills (Mission Hills, Calif.)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/170            B/T: R/R          Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 6m

In a down year for Southern California prep talent, Liniak is making a name for himself despite missing time during his junior year with a broken hand. A San Diego commit, his carrying tools are his speed and his arm, both of which earn above average-to-plus grades.