With the MLB amateur draft a couple weeks away, it’s time to start looking at high school players who have seen their stock rise this season through their great overall play, as well as improvements in their game. Here are five players who could be selected on the first day of the draft, which will be held June 4-6.
Ty Buttrey, RHP, Providence HS (NC)
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Not many prep pitchers have seen their stock soar as high as Buttrey’s this season. That’s what happens when you add velocity and a unique pitch to a 6’-6”, 215-pound frame. His fastball was hitting the upper-80s as a junior. Now, it touches 96 mph, but usually sits in the 91-93 mph range. His change-up is a developing plus pitch with good fade to it, sitting in the 83-85 mph range. His third pitch, the unique one, was made famous by former five-time all star Mike Mussina. It’s a knuckle-curve, thrown with the index finger bent to give better control and a tighter spin on the breaking ball. It can, however, lead to blisters, which is why Justin Verlander stopped throwing the variation of the curveball. So far, the pitch has worked wonders for Buttrey this season. He is 8-1, with a 0.80 ERA and 96 strikeouts over 60 innings. Aside from the knuckle-curve, he is also known for being a quick worker on the mound. His ability to quick pitch hitters keeps them off balanced and it’s a testament to his stamina. He is almost a lock for the first two rounds with a strong shot at being taken in the first.
Corey Seager, SS, Cabarrus HS (NC)
Seager’s brother, Kyle Seager, is the starting third baseman for the Seattle Mariners. He is a 24-year-old power lefty and turning into one of the game’s better young hitters in just his first full professional season. Kyle is 18 years old, and at 6’-4” and 200 pounds, is already bigger than his older brother and may have more pop from the left side, as well. He made a name for himself by hitting .514 with seven extra-base hits, 12 RBI and a team-leading 10 walks over nine games as U16 Team USA won the gold medal at the COPABE Pan Am Championships in 2010. He plays shortstop now, but will most likely grow out of the position and settle in at third where his arm and range will play well. He has impressed scouts this season by showing opposite field power, good contact rates and an overall advanced feel for the game. Good bloodlines will also always help your status. He has recently been projected to go in the first-round, some even putting him in the top-20.
Courtney Hawkins, OF/RHP, Carroll HS (TX)
Hawkins is a phenomenal athlete who has been a one-man wrecking crew for Carroll HS this season. At the plate, he is hitting .457 with 10 home runs, 36 RBI and 16 stolen bases over 28 games. On the mound, he is 3-1 with a 0.83 ERA and 44 strikeouts over 25.1 innings, and at 25-3, has led his team to a top-10 national ranking. He hit .410 with 15 home runs and 22 stolen bases as a junior, as well as going 10-2 with a 2.35 ERA on the bump. At 6’-3” and 210 pounds, the right-hander has great speed, raw power to all fields and his arm has been clocked in the mid-90s. Scouts love everything about him, including the way he carries himself on and off the field. A strong commitment to Texas may not be an issue if he is taken in the first round, something that is becoming more likely as the draft nears.
Kyle Carter, OF/LHP, Columbus HS (GA)
At 6’-1” and 195 pounds, Carter is one of the premiere left-handed power hitters in the draft, regardless of class. He showed that power at the sixth-annual Power Showcase held at Chase Field over the winter by blasting a 478-foot home run, the longest of the event. He won the event by hitting seven home runs in the final round, six more than anyone else. He is hitting .370 on the season, with 14 home runs and 28 RBI through 28 games. As a junior, he set the school record for home runs by smashing 22 in 36 games. Over his 123 career games, including this year, he is hitting .419 with 59 home runs and 165 RBI. He is also a star on the mound where is has gone 8-2 this season with a 0.72 ERA. Still raw in some areas, and he may not hear his name called on the first day of the draft, but power-hitting lefties with a strong outfield arm is something every team covets.
Albert Almora, OF, Mater Academy (FL)
Almora was already considered a likely first-round pick coming into this season. After all, he had already built an impressive resume that included being named a member of Team USA a record-tying six times. He was also fresh off winning a gold medal with the U18 team at the Pan Am Championships in Colombia over the winter. He was named MVP of the tournament, hitting .421 (16-for-38) with a team-leading 11 runs, five doubles, 11 RBI and nine stolen bases as Team USA went 9-0, outscoring opponents 88-8.
His play this season has now put his name in the upper-half of the first round, possibly even top-10. Over 25 games, he hit .603 with 42 runs, six home runs, 34 RBI and stole 27 bases. He showed a great approach at the plate, great speed on the base paths, strong defensive abilities in center field, and most of all, power to all fields. At 6’-1” and 170 pounds, scouts knew the power would come as he matured, just not this soon. With above average tools across the board, Almora looks like a future .300/20 HR/20 SB hitter down the line, as well as a clubhouse leader.