By: Luke Crabb | June 16, 2017 12:52 pm CT
This year’s MLB draft was nothing short of storylines and surprises. It was by far the most bizarre draft I can remember. There was a lot of talk about two way players, top picks that play first base, and a top prospect’s criminal record held him from getting selected. I’m going to stay away from the criminal record story – you can find that here: (https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2017/06/14/oregon-state-pitcher-luke-heimlich-goes-undrafted/102868208/).
The MLB draft doesn’t get the media attention that the NFL and NBA draft does, which is from a multitude of reasons. It mostly stems from the players being selected are likely to not affect a club for a couple of seasons.
A pretty cool graphic that the MLB Network showed in the pre-draft showed that 19 of last year’s MLB All Star Game starters were 1st round selections.
One thing I have realized about the draft is just how random and hard it is for people to predict what these teams are going to do.
I decided to write a piece and talk about some of the guys in this draft that stand out to me. I will go ahead and put a disclaimer out: I am a retired college baseball player so I have a bias towards college players. I truly believe that it should be a rule that you cannot draft kids out of high school. The magnitude of how much a player learns about himself through his college years is insurmountable.
Here is my 2017 MLB first year player draft review:
Brendan McKay 1B, Louisville, RD (1) PK (4), Tampa Bay Rays— The most thrilling, interesting, and impressive player in college baseball for the last three years. A ton of conversation around whether McKay would be drafted as position player or pitcher. The Rays announced him as a 1B so it looks like they are going to take the old narrative that a two-way player can pick up a ball but he can’t pick up a bat. Either way, this was going to turn out McKay is the safest pick in the draft. I believe he is the safest pick for two reasons: first, he competes as hard as anyone in college baseball; second, no moment seems to be too big for Brendan McKay. The only time he has shown any emotion was on the mound last week when he clinched the College World Series for his team. To finish, here are the numbers this year from possibly the best college baseball player ever – Pitching: 10-3, 104 ip, 140 so, 2.34 era. Hitting: avg .343, ob% .463, slg% .657.
(h/t Steve Givarz)
Kyle Wright RHP, Vanderbilt, RD (1) PK (5), Atlanta Braves— A lot of people were on the scent that Wright would go first in the draft about a month ago. After a tough loss in the super regional, he got knocked around for 7 earned runs through 6.2 innings pitched. Wright is likely the most developed pitcher in this draft and he comes with less mileage on his arm. He developed late and was never projected to be what he turned out to be (he was not drafted out of high school). He has a true five pitch mix according to scouts and SEC announcers. This is where I disagree – I don’t think that Wright trusts his changeup like scouts believe. If you watch this video of him throwing for team USA you notice he shies away from throwing his changeup and relies on his slider/curveball mix (link USA baseball video). When the scouts were watching him at Vanderbilt this spring and the coaching staff was calling his pitches, it likely looked as though he trusted the changeup. I have some reservations about Wright, chances are a guy with his kind of command and experience he should find his way through the minors.
(h/t Prospect Pipeline)
Adam Haseley OF, Virginia, RD (1) PK (8), Philadelphia Phillies— It was announced yesterday that Haseley is one of four finalists for the Golden Spikes Award (college baseballs best player). Haseley is my pick to be the first position player in this draft to make it to be the big leagues. He brings good speed and projects to be a player that will hit for a good average at the next level. Haseley hits to all fields and a lot of scouts describe his stance as being unorthodox; his stance is hunched over but it seems to allow him to uncoil and hit the ball into the left center gap. The arm is really good on him as well. He started out as pitcher at UVA and has transitioned into a strong hitter for the Cavaliers in his junior season. (.390/.491/.659)
(h/t Vincent Cervino)
J.B. Bukauskas RHP, North Carolina, RD (1) PK (15), Houston Astros— First thing about Bukauskas is his fastball velocity touched 100 mph this year. It’s become less rare to see guys bring that kind of heat but is still jaw dropping when you see it. The knock that scouts had on Bukauskas was his size; he stands at 6 feet. Not only does Bukauskas have the fastball he has a plus plus slider. At times throughout the season he leaned on it as his out pitch. He has two plus pitches that could help the Astros bullpen right now. The Astros were shocked that he slid all the way down to the 15 slot and nabbed him. I really the Royals would have taken this live arm, he has the chance to be something special.
(h/t Prospect Pipeline)
Tyler Johnson RHP, South Carolina, RD (5) PK (147), Chicago White Sox— I was shocked to see Johnson fall to the 5th round. At the start of May he was still in consideration to go in the 1st round. With arm problems and the Gamecocks not making it into the postseason is likely to blame for Johnson’s fall. The 6’2” righty has command of an upper 90’s fastball with a plus slider. The slider is firm, reaching 85 mph with late action. He started a game in the South Carolina regional last season when his team was facing elimination and he stepped up big time and delivered a win for his team. Johnson knows how to compete and has played both a starter role and a major bullpen piece in his time in Columbia. Keep an eye on this arm because he has a chance to be something special at the next level.
(h/t Vincent Cervino)
Those are the guys that jumped off the page to me in this year’s draft. I think Haesley will be the first hitter in this class to the Big Leagues and my guess is Kyle Wright will likely be the first pitcher up in the class.