Featured Photo: Trevor Larnach, OF, Oregon State Univ.
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2080 Baseball Resource Libraries
Positional Preview Series
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CREAM OF THE CROP
(Potential Day 1 Targets)
After a breakout spring for the Beavers in 2017, Larnach put together an impressive summer on the Cape where he slashed .308/.390/.442 for Falmouth. The development continued this season as Larnach, who had previously combined to hit three homeruns in his first two years in Corvallis, slugged 17 round-trippers while improving his ISO from .126 to .313 year-over-year. Keeping a still head with a simple load before rotating his hips, Larnach generates tremendous leverage with moderately uppercut swing that produces above-average-to-plus power. There’s some swing and miss to the profile, but Larnach has a developed feel for the strike zone that should continue to translate into high on-base numbers as a professional.
A below average runner, Larnach is limited to a corner defensively, with his above-average arm making right field a nice fit. While Larnach was considered more of a third-round talent entering the season, he’s hit himself squarely into day one territory at this point, with a chance to come off the board in the first 30 picks.
Steele Walker, OF, Univ. of Oklahoma
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/190 B/T: L/R Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 10m
Walker showed very well for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team last summer, slashing .333/.417/.514 and leading the team in most offensive categories. He’s carried that momentum with him to Norman this spring, turning in a phenomenal season for the Sooners by producing a line of .352/.441/.606 with 13 homeruns on his way to Big-12 All-Conference honors. Walker is one of the best pure hitters in the college ranks, boasting excellent feel for the barrel, with an ability to spray line drives across all fields thanks to above-average bat speed and a compact stroke.
Though not a burner, he shows good feel on the grass and on the bases and should be an asset in all facets of the game. Walker primarily plays right field for Oklahoma, but a fringe-average arm will likely limit him to left field as a professional. The consistency in spring ball paired with the strong track record with wood makes Walker one of the safer picks to click in this draft and a likely fit somewhere in the first 50 picks or so.
The son of Jeff Conine, Griffin stood out as one of the most polished position players in the Cape Cod League last summer where he slashed .329/.406/.537 and led the circuit in homeruns (9). After entering the spring as one of the top bats to follow in the entire draft class, he got off to a rocky start as a junior and was hitting just .224 at the midway point of the season. He turned it on down the stretch, however, currently sitting with a .271/.395/.573 line with 15 jacks, a .302 ISO, and an impressive 53.7% of his hits going for extra bases. There’s significant swing-and-miss in Conine’s game, resulting in a strikeout rate over 25%, but he takes a lot of free passes, mitigating some of the concern. When he’s on, Conine combines plus bat speed with natural loft to drive the ball with over-the-fence pop visible in batting practice and games alike.
Although he’s a fringe-average runner, Conine has the athleticism and above-average arm well-suited for right field. Conine entered the year as a potential top 10 pick, and the market overcorrected after the poor start. He’s still a quality target in the top 50 picks with the potential to provide value that exceeds the spot in which he’ll ultimately be selected.
One of the more polarizing players in this class, those that like Beer will point out his .325/.493/.646 slash line with 53 homeruns over a storied collegiate career, while those that don’t will cling to his poor track record with wood over the past few summers and uncertain future defensive home. Beer’s carrying tool is his big game power, the result of above-average bat speed, sheer strength and a swing plane that produces easy, natural loft.
Beer controls the strike zone as well as anyone in this draft class, displaying excellent plate discipline and rarely chasing pitches out of the zone. At times, his swing lacks fluidity, and he’s tinkered with his load year-over-year, eschewing a toe tap timing mechanism he used as a sophomore for a leg kick this season. Although he’s spent a good amount of time on the grass for Clemson, his bottom of the scale speed and fringe-average arm could limit him to either first base or designated hitter as a professional. Beer could slip into the second round or come off the board as high as the top 30 picks to a club banking on his approach and top-of-the-scale power carrying the profile.
Jenista slashed .310/.391/.401 last summer on his way to Cape Cod League MVP honors. Though he has more swing and miss than his Wichita State teammate Alec Bohm, Jenista offers a broader collection of tools. Out the core of the profile is uncommon athleticism from a XXL frame, with the talented outfielder currently manning center field for the Shockers, though he profiles best at a corner outfield spot as a professional where his above-average arm could be an asset. Jenista also runs very well for his size, leading Wichita State with 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts.
Offensively, Jenista has plus raw power, though he’s had trouble consistently harnessing it in games this season. He uses above-average bat speed and a smooth left-handed swing to consistently square-up fastballs, though he’ll occasionally get caught out front on breaking balls, rolling over ground balls for soft contact outs. Jenista shows excellent feel for the strike zone, drawing walks in nearly 20% of his plate appearances this season. A slightly disappointing spring from a power production standpoint has Jenista lined-up to come off the board closer to the second round than early in the first, but his impressive showing with wood last summer could entice a team to pop him early – particularly one looking to lock in a college bat before turning to over-slot deals with extra picks.
Nick Decker, OF, Southampton (Southampton Township, N.J.)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/200 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 8m
A Perfect Game All-American, Decker flashes impact power from the left side of the plate. A patient hitter, he shows uncommon feel for the zone for a high school hitter, drawing walks and working counts in his favor. The Maryland commit packs plus bat speed into a fluid uppercut swing that drives balls over the fence with relative ease and showed an ability this spring to get to that pop in-game.
While he’s got a lot of present strength, Decker’s frame doesn’t offer much by way of future projection. He’s only a fringe-average runner, but he gets good jumps in outfield, and has an arm that plays well in right field. Decker is rumored to be singable in the day one range and lines up well to come off the board in the top 75 picks.
Pompey broke out during his sophomore campaign in Lexington but failed to replicate that success in the Cape Cod League last summer, producing a line of .230/.284/.345 with 24 strikeouts and just seven walks before leaving early and cutting his summer short. He returned to form this spring, slashing .335/.448/.557, 20 doubles and 10 stolen bases, resuscitating evaluator interest in his impressive collection of tools.
Tall, lean and athletically built at 6’4” and 205 pounds, Pompey is a switch hitter who flashes above-average raw power from both sides of the plate, though he’s a bit more fluid from the left side. Pompey is at his best when he’s getting his long arms extended, driving the ball into the opposite field gap, and using his plus speed on the base paths. Though he’s played all three outfield positions for Kentucky during his collegiate career, he’ll likely be limited to left field as a professional, as he lacks the instincts for center and the arm strength for right. His draft day stock is all over the map, with some teams potentially in on him as early as the supplemental-first round and others viewing him as a better fit in the second-to-third round range.
ADDITIONAL NAMES TO KNOW
Elijah Cabell, OF/RHP, TNXL Academy (Longwood, Fla.)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 11m
Cabell possesses the tools to grow into an above-average defender in right, including double-plus arm strength and above-average speed. An LSU commit, he can impact the game with the bat as well. Cabell shows good bat speed and creates leverage with a right-handed stroke capable of producing above-average-to-plus power. The power comes at a cost, however, as there’s some swing and miss to his game, likely capping the future hit tool as average at best. He has enough upside for an interested team to pop him in the second round or float an above-average deal later on. Should he make it to campus he could be an early contributor for the Tigers of Baton Rouge.
Alfonso Rivas, 1B/OF, Univ. of Arizona
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/190 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 9m
Rivas leveraged a breakout sophomore campaign into a successful stint last summer in the Cape Cod League, slugging three homeruns with wood, and posting a .368 on base percentage. Rivas’ success continued this spring, slashing .342/.425/.529 with seven homeruns. Though he primarily plays first base for the Wildcats, he’s a two-way player with enough arm for right field. Rivas should be in play early on day two of the draft.
Niko Delcolati, 3B/OF, Loyola Marymount Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/215 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 20y, 10m
Delcolati performed well over the summer, slashing .311/.364/.377 for the Orleans Firebirds in the Cape Cod League, though his game hasn’t progressed this spring as much as evaluators had hoped, resulting in a strikeout rate of nearly 25% paired to go with 16 errors in the field. Despite these flaws, Delcolati offers plus speed, an above-average arm, and some right-handed pop that could play at either third base or a corner outfield position.
In what’s been somewhat of a down year for Louisville, Stowers has been a bright spot for the Cardinals, slashing .341/.475/.570 with nine homeruns, 36 stolen bases, and considerably more walks (60) than strikeouts (37). There’s strength in Stowers athletically built frame – not to mention a tighter physique this year than in years passed – but his compact right-handed swing is geared more toward line drives than homeruns. Though he currently mans center field for the Cardinals, his below-average arm likely limits him to left as a professional.
Robert Neustrom, OF, Univ. of Iowa
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/208 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 6m
Neustrom has the size and speed to impact the game both at the plate and out in right field. He slashed .302/.346/.479 on the Cape last summer, earning all-star honors on the circuit. He carried that momentum with him to Iowa City this spring, producing a .311/.386/.538 line with 11 homeruns. There’s untapped power potential within Neustrom, which will augment his profile in a corner. As an intriguing developmental pick, Neustrom could make sense in the fourth-to-sixth round range.
Lawrence Butler, OF/RHP, Westlake (Atlanta, Ga.)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/195 B/T: L/R Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 17y, 11m
Butler boasts a big, powerful frame with lots of leverage and natural loft in his swing, but an underdeveloped approach at the plate at present. He’s an excellent athlete and above-average runner, giving him a chance to develop into at least an average defender in an outfield corner while offering net positive value on the bases. The West Virginia commit isn’t a “now” talent demanding early round consideration, but his athleticism, size and ability to drive the ball with authority, along with remaining projection in his build and game, make him a terrific developmental target in the fourth-to-sixth round range provided he’s signable there.
Brett Kinneman, OF, North Carolina State Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/197 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 9m
Kinneman has had a loud, power-based spring for the Wolfpack, slashing .279/.394/.607 with 17 homeruns on his way to all conference honors within the Atlantic Coast Conference. There’s some swing-and-miss to Kenneman’s game, but when he connects, over half of his hits have gone for extra bases. A decent outfielder with average speed and an average arm, there is a chance Kinneman could play center field as a professional, but he profiles best in left.
Micah Bello, OF, Hilo (Hilo, HA)
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/165 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 17y, 11m
Universally considered the top draft prospect in Hawaii, Bello is a plus runner and with a plus arm. Committed to St. Mary’s, he fits the bill of a top of the order table setter. Though he lacks present power, there’s room to add strength on his thin frame.
Carlos Cortes, OF, Univ. of South Carolina
Ht/Wt: 5’7”/197 B/T: L/R Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 20y, 11m
Cortes utilizes excellent trunk and core strength to produce plus impressive power to the pull side given his size and demonstrates an ability to work for pitches he can drive. There are some plate coverage concerns, which were evident on the Cape last summer, but the raw materials are here for a big league contributor with the stick. Though his .244 batting average would indicate a down year, Cortes demonstrated on base skills by drawing more walks (39) than strikeouts (29) and hit 15 homeruns.
Eric Cole, OF, Univ. of Arkansas
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/170 B/T: S/R Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 4m
During a brief stint in the Northwoods League last summer, Cole impressed, slashing .389/.436/.472 over nine games. He’s continued to hit for the Razorbacks this season, posting a .951 OPS with 12 homeruns. A switch hitter with a diverse collection of tools, Cole’s average arm and average speed could play in either corner.
Kendrick Calilao, OF, The First Academy (Orlando, Fla.)
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/195 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 3m
Utilizing above-average bat speed, Calilao has feel for the barrel with a compact right-handed stroke geared more toward contact than power. He’s committed to Florida and could contribute to the Gators early as a top of the order hitter who could profile in right field where his plus arm would be an asset.
A three-year starter for FSU, Lueck’s production slipped a bit this season, and he didn’t hit for a high average (.245). He still managed to impact the game with power from both sides of the plate, hitting 15 homeruns with an ISO of .244.
Ryan Olenek, OF, Univ. of Mississippi
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/180 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 10m
A steady contributor throughout his first two seasons in Oxford, Olenek elevated his game as a junior, slashing .363/.401/.482. His contact-oriented approach doesn’t translate into much power, but that may change as he continues to add muscle to his tall, thin frame.