At 7 P.M. Eastern tonight, the 2019 MLB Draft begins. This draft, compared to past ones, is filled with a deeper array of hitters and not so many big arms. Who will make the biggest splash? Who are the biggest sleepers? What player will end up being the best pick in this draft when we look back years from now. Here are some of the important headlines heading into tonight’s big event.
Is the Adley Rustchman hype real?
Let’s get one thing straight: Adley Rutschman is not Buster Posey. That doesn’t mean he’s better or worse, no. What this means is Rutschman is a transcending player that signals the start of a change in baseball. Since Posey, there really hasn’t been any big hitting catchers in the league. Rutschman, like the Giants’ pick of Joey Bart the year before, is of a unique breed that changes the position. Even more, changes the game. He’s a switch hitter and a dominant defender who is of championship caliber in the mold of a Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza and Buster Posey all rolled into one. At the start of the draft, expect to see his name called first overall to the Baltimore Orioles.
The White Sox can change the course of the draft at #3.
Everyone wants to know, where will the White Sox go. This is a big draft for the south side. They are right at the cusp of an organizational change with their best prospects bleeding through in the bigs and producing. So where do the white and black go at #3? Do they take a game-changing bat in Andrew Vaughn, who will fly through the minors in no time? Or do they go for a prep bat in the form of a Dee Gordon-speedester high-bred in CJ Abrams? Or, a big “OR”, do they surprise everyone and take one of the best college hitters this year in Vanderbilt outfielder JJ Bleday?
How the Sox pick will change the course of the entire first round. If they go Vaughn, then it lets Miami take their scouting obsession in Bleday. If they go Abrams, it forces Miami’s hand to not pass up a talent like Vaughn, which in turn puts the #5 pick, which is owned by Detroit, in a major decision to decide whether they go for a college bat in Bleday who has show success, or a high school bat, who is considered the purest hitter in this draft in Riley Greene. From that point, the talent spreads out. They could shock everyone and reach for a pitcher, which would show some of the draft’s biggest hitters drop outside of the top-10. Whatever they do, it’ll definitely change the course.
Who will be the first pitcher selected?
The age old debate, college pitchers versus high school pitchers. Does a team pick a player that has a track record against better competition, or do they trust their scouts enough to go with an unproven arm? Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s just the risk of a team drafting any pitcher. There really isn’t a Casey Mize in this year’s crop, or even a Hunter Greene or Mackenzie Gore for that matter. So if a team wants a pitcher, where do they turn? Any pitcher that is chosen this year will be selected on how much a team loves them. Because there isn’t much separation between any of these guys. TCU ace Nick Lodolo is a player we’ve been hearing the most that could see his name come off the board first. There’s also junior college stud Jackson Rutledge and even high-schooler Quinn Priester, both who came out of nowhere this year.
Who are the biggest sleepers?
There’s a few in the first round. Missouri outfielder Kameron Misner, whose stock has been up and down all year, is someone that can come into an organization and spend a few years on the farm to develop his plate approach. And if developed right, will end up being a valuable pick. He’s a very toolsy prospect.
Michael Busch out of North Carolina has had comparisons to Andrew Vaughn. While Vaughn’s frame, which is virtually the same as Busch’s, hasn’t been brought up much as being a concern, Busch, however, takes criticisms for it. Busch is a big hitter, who unlike Vaughn, can play in the outfield. He finds the barrel to the ball very well and can drive the ball anywhere he wants.
Jack Leiter is a high school pitcher out of New Jersey. I love his work ethic, his game IQ and his confidence. Sure, he won’t blow anyone away at the next level, as I have written in past articles, but he will do what is expected out of him every time he steps on that mound. He should be a late-first round or early second round pick.
Tommy Henry is a name we are hearing about now, but he’s been Michigan’s go-to guy for a while. He’s a lefty with three pitches: a fastball, a slider and a changeup. Each are solid pitches. His fastball has good movement, which helps, but he’ll also have to develop a breaking pitch if he wants to be in the rotation at the next level. When drafted, he’ll be the best pitching prospect to come out of Michigan since Jim Abbott.
Erik Miller out of Stanford is another southpaw, who misses a lot of bats. His size helps him come down the pipe with devastating stuff, that’s no doubt. However, some scouts have projected him as a future bullpen guy. Due in part to his stamina, that has been his biggest question mark to date. He hasn’t been able to continue his gas into the later innings, so if that changes at the next level, he might be a starter.
Sammy “the Kid” Faltline is a prep pitcher who I absolutely love. He falls out of the top 200 of top MLB draft prospects but I really like his stuff. His frame needs to fill out more, okay, but he’s a heck of an athlete, regardless. The Kid is a two-way player that can hit as well as he can throw, but will most likely be a pitcher at the next level. He has a snap dragon, quick release and his stuff really moves. He’s a Texas Longhorns commit, so pending on where he’s drafted, he could opt to go to school instead. If he does, he won’t disappear. We’ll hear from him again.
Spencer Jones might drop out of the first round, but that doesn’t mean anything as I don’t tend to judge high school players too much by their season performance. At one time he was considered at top-20 pick when the first mock drafts for 2019 were revealed. It partly due to the hype of two-way players. We can thank former picks Hunter Greene and Brendan McKay for that. Jones is the same type of player though. While he most likely will be a future pitcher, if I were a team in need of good hitters I would think twice about that. His bat projects too good to not be swung on a daily basis. He’ll hit at the next level. We don’t know what we’ll get with his arm until he faces stiffer competition. Got to go with the odds if I’m selecting a high-schooler.
Jordan Brewer out of Michigan I just took notice to this past month. Sorry for my lateness, pal. This guy can play! Brewer has solid tools across the board. He can hit, and if he develops his raw power more, could be a legit threat at the plate. His defense is solid. From center field in high school to the corners and first base at Michigan, he’s played it all, and there wasn’t any real holes in his game when he did. This guy has 20-20 potential written all over him. If his power develops, as we’ve seen glimpses of, he could even become a 30-homer guy.
Is Bobby Witt Jr. the best high school player at #2?
There is a gracefulness to Witt that makes him hard to pass up. He’s been scouted as heavily as Bryce Harper was as a youth, but what sets him apart from other prospects is that he has the MLB bloodlines to back him up. His father played 16 years in the league. In past mocks elsewhere, Witt hasn’t really fell below three. His performance this year at the dish and in the field actually improved his stock, if you can believe it. He’s not going to be the #1 guy, that’s reserved for Rutschman, but Kansas City at #2 will most likely select the young infielder. It’s a smart pick for them, if they do. He could be the cornerstone of that franchise, since Eric Hosmer‘s departure.
Is he the best high-schooler in the draft? I don’t believe so. I think Riley Greene out of Hagerty has more upside as a hitter and should see success sooner than Witt. Corbin Carroll out of Washington too. What Witt needs to do is put on some muscle and face legit pitching before anyone rolls out the red carpet him. What makes him #2 is that he’s as good of a fielder as he his a hitter. This makes him a complete package prospect. That’s a hard one to pass up. If I were the Royals, I’d go Witt too because you know exactly what you’re getting, floor to ceiling.
Can this draft change the Diamondbacks for years to come?
All eyes are on the Diamondbacks tonight. They have four, count them, four first round picks, two of them compensations. Taking a glance at their organization, they need a little bit of everything. Good-hitting outfielders and consistent pitchers. This draft will help them restock the farm. They are in true rebuild mode, so there isn’t a rush to win now expectation from anyone. I do expect them to use these four picks to gamble on a couple high school players and maybe split the difference with some experienced college players. Out of any time, this year’s draft is probably the most important to this organization’s future for the next five years.