Featured Photo: Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Colleyville Heritage (Colleyville, Texas)
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With the 2018 MLB Draft officially in the books, it’s time to start looking onward to next year.
While the high school showcase circuit and collegiate summer leagues will further define how this upcoming class will be viewed, we’re highlighting ten outstanding talents to monitor over the next 12 months and in particular this summer.
Access our 2019 Draft Class Video Library (HERE).
Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Colleyville Heritage (Colleyville, Texas)
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/185 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2019 MLB Draft): 18y, 11m
Witt has been on the scouting radar for several years now, regularly competing against older competition and standing out on the travel ball circuit. As an underclassman, Witt participated in several high-profile events over the summer last year with the 2018 draft class, including a week serving as the double play partner of Brewers first rounder Brice Turang at the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars. Witt’s father was a 16-year Major League veteran, so it’s not surprising that Bobby Jr. plays with polish beyond his years.
He’s fundamentally sound up the middle, with a quick exchange and the requisite enough arm strength to make the plays in the hole. He’s got a quick right-handed swing with the ability to impact the baseball to all fields. Witt’s speed gives him a fifth tool that has flashed above average or better, producing double-plus home-to-first times in the 4.00-to-4.10 range. He’s committed to Oklahoma, but at this early stage in 2019 draft cycle the name on the roster is in pencil rather than ink, with Witt roundly considered to be one of the top prep talents in the country and a likely top-of-the draft selection.
Bryson Stott, SS, Univ. of Nevada, Las Vegas
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/195 B/T: L/R Age (as of 2019 MLB Draft): 21y, 8m
Stott was the catalyst atop a surprising UNLV squad this spring, breaking out with a slash line of .365/.442/.556 while striking out just 18 times in 290 plate appearances and drawing 32 walks over that 59-game span. The lefty-swinging shortstop’s impressive campaign followed a loud summer in the Northwoods League in which he put up a .352/.442/.451 slash line and drew 49 walks to just 30 strikeouts over 71 games and swiped 28 stolen bases.
Stott doesn’t show much in the way of over-the-fence pop yet, but there is easily enough power to rack-up extra base hits and the young shortstop can drive the ball opposite field with enough authority that he should be able to produce some more long-ball damage as he continues to mature. On the dirt, Stott shows solid glovework, good first-step quickness and a left-side arm, making him a good candidate to stick at shortstop long term. As an up-the-middle glove with a track record of performance with wood and during the college season, Stott is an early top 10 candidate with a skill set that lines up admirably with the college bats taken in the top five picks of 2018. He’ll be with USA Baseball’s Collegiate Nation Team this summer.
Nick Lodolo, LHP, Texas Christian Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’6”/185 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2019 MLB Draft): 21y, 5m
Selected 41st overall by the Pirates in the 2016 draft, Lodolo turned down a reported $1.75 million bonus, choosing instead to honor his commitment to TCU. He became an instant contributor for the Horned Frogs, seizing a weekend rotation spot early on that he’d never relinquish. His first spring in Fort Worth, Lodolo pitched to a 5-1 record with a 4.32 ERA on his way to earning Freshman All-American honors. Working as the Friday starter in his sophomore season this spring, Lodolo posted similar numbers (7-4, 4.35 ERA), though he missed more bats, increasing his strikeout-per-nine rate from 8.24 to 10.87 year over year.
High-waisted and long limbed, Lodolo has a projectable body with room to add strength as he matures. He challenges hitters on the inner half of the plate with a fastball that sits at 92-to-95 mph. His best secondary offering is a mid-70s breaking ball, with moderate depth and 1-to-7 movement, and he also shows feel for a mid-80s change piece. As he prepares for 2019, Lodolo is well positioned to be a day one draftee for a second time in three years.
Hunter Barco, LHP, The Bolles (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/210 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2019 MLB Draft): 18y, 5m
Barco is a big, sturdy lefty with additional room left in his frame to continue to add some strength. Slinging with a short arm action from a low-three-quarters slot, the Virginia commit can already work into the low 90s with his fastball, creating good angle to the plate when he’s hitting his release. He mixes in an impressive low-80s slider with solid two-plane action and bite, as well as a firm mid-80s changeup that shows promise but is still in its early developmental stages.
Last October Barco stood out in Jupiter on a talented Braves Scout Team/East Cobb club, showing all three pitches and impressive mound presence. His low slot and quick arm can lead to some drag at times, limiting his effectiveness to the glove side, but he repeats his delivery well enough that most evaluators give him a good chance to grow into at least average in-zone command in time. He has the size, stuff and track record to land high on draft follow lists come next winter and is on the short list for top prep arm in the class as we kick off the 2019 draft cycle.
Josh Jung, 3B, Texas Tech Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/215 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2019 MLB Draft): 21y, 3m
After a strong freshman season in which he slashed .306/.395/.453 on his way to being named the top freshman in the Big-12, Jung outdid himself as a sophomore. This spring, the Texas Tech infielder is leading the conference in hitting (.384), on-base percentage (.490), runs (68), and RBI (77) as the Red Raiders continue their post-season run into Super Regionals.
There’s plenty of physicality in his broad-shouldered frame, making him an imposing figure in the batter’s box. Jung takes professional at-bats, controlling the strike zone and punishing any mistake that catches too much plate. A gap-to-gap hitter, Jung’s raw power is at least above-average, with additional projection remaining. He’s a below-average runner, with limited range at the hot corner, but his hands and footwork are both adequate and his arm is plus, with easy carry across the diamond. Jung’s strong spring earned him a spot on the Collegiate National Team this summer where he’ll slot into on a highly impressive infield with big time offensive chops.
Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/215 B/T: S/R Age (as of 2019 MLB Draft): 21y, 4m
Rutschman has been a standout this spring for one of the better offenses in the country, slashing .380/.479/.577 over 262 plate appearances for the Beavers. The Oregon State backstop brings to the plate a simple, balanced set-up with quick hands, an advanced approach and excellent feel for the barrel, regularly squaring up the ball. His medium-wide, strong build plays well in the box, as Rutschman displays easy pull power already with a chance to grow into at least average in-game pop at maturity. He generates high-impact swings from a strong core and firm wrists that generate above-average bat speed to go with good natural strength.
Behind the dish Rutschman moves well, displaying solid side-to-side movement and athletic actions. He has soft, strong hands that allow him to excel at presentation, sticking the corners and the low strike with impressive regularity. He’ll join Baylor standout Shea Langeliers this summer in handling an impressive Collegiate National Team staff, with a strong performance likely to lock him in as an early-round target for next spring.
Rece Hinds, SS/3B, Niceville Senior (Niceville, Fla.)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/210 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2019 MLB Draft): 18y, 9m
Like Bobby Witt Jr., Hinds played up last summer, joining the 2018 draft class during several showcase events. His standout tool is his prodigious power from the right side, a result of equal parts bat speed and sheer strength. That strength was on display at the Under Armour All-America Game last July, as the then 17-year-old snapped his wood bat over his knee with relative ease when frustrated with his performance in the homerun derby.
Currently a shortstop, Hinds may soon grow off the position, with third base or a corner outfield spot being the most obvious landing spot. His arm would be an asset at either spot, although his below average speed could make him a better fit for the hot corner. Hinds is an LSU commit and while Tigers seemingly have done well to get many their top 2018 recruits to Baton Rouge, getting a premier talent such as Hinds to campus is always a difficult proposition.
Matt Wallner, OF, Southern Mississippi Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/220 B/T: L/R Age (as of 2019 MLB Draft): 21y, 6m
Wallner was a force for Southern Miss this spring over the team’s 62-game run, slashing .351/.474/.618 over 292 plate appearances while launching 16 homeruns. The talented outfielder already looks the part of a big-leaguer, athletically built into his power frame with smooth and athletic actions across the diamond. He spent time in both center and right field, with the latter potentially the better fit at the next level thanks to his above-average arm strength.
In the box, Wallner utilizes a slight hitch in his load with a simple trigger and weight transfer. His bat is quick through the zone with lots of natural loft and good extension through contact, though there can be some inconsistencies in his bat path, opening up holes in the zone and leading to soft contact or empty swings. Wallner will play with the Collegiate National Team this summer where evaluators will watch eagerly to see how well his power translates to wood. A good showing could vault him up follow lists as one of the better power prospects in the 2019 class.
Andrew Vaughn, 1B, Univ. of California, Berkeley
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/214 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2019 MLB Draft): 21y, 2m
Undrafted out of high school, Vaughn burst onto the scene in 2017 with a monster year for the Golden Bears, slashing .349/.414/.555 on his way to Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors. He parlayed the strong spring into a spot on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, where he hit in the middle of the order. He was even more impressive as a sophomore, named as a Golden Spikes Award finalist after posting an OPS of 1.350 to go with 23 homeruns and over twice the number of walks (44) as strikeouts (18).
Vaughn has quick hands with a penchant for barreling balls with a compact yet powerful swing and exceptional feel for the strike zone. As a sub-six-foot right/right first baseman, much of Vaughn’s value is tied to his stick. He doesn’t run well, but he’s got a good arm and has been up to 92 mph on the bump as a two-way player for Cal. He’ll once again suit up for Team USA this summer, and he could position himself to be an early pick next year if he shows well with wood.
Carter Young, SS, Selah (Selah, Wash.)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/170 B/T: S/R Age (as of 2019 MLB Draft): 18y, 11m
As the only underclassmen on USA Baseball’s 18U National Team last fall, Young impressed in the WBSC World Cup, slashing .294/.429/.353 as a starter in all nine games while drawing nine walks and going 4-for-6 in stolen base attempts. He’s a good athlete with quick twitch actions and an ability to contribute defensively across the diamond. He fits comfortably up-the-middle on the dirt (where he typically plays) but also shows instinctual actions in the outfield and impressive chops behind the plate to boot.
Offensively, the Vanderbilt commit can swing it from both sides of the plate with a little more natural loft and carry from the left side and a slashing all-fields cut from the right. He doesn’t project to much over-the-fence pop at present, but there is good strength in his wrists and an ability to frequently barrel balls to all field that bodes well for his future profile as an early-order contact-oriented stick who can do extra-base damage to both gaps. He’ll be one of the more interesting talents to watch on the summer showcase circuit and is an early 2080 Baseball favorite to plant his flag this summer as a top follow and potential day one target for 2019.