Under the new CBA draft rules, players are able to sign earlier than in the past, giving them the opportunity to start their pro careers a lot sooner. In essence, they are gaining almost an extra year of playing time, which benefits both the players and organizations. While many viewed the 2012 draft as a pitcher-heavy draft, the high school bats have been outstanding over the first couple of weeks. With first-overall pick Carlos Correa (.151 BA) and second-overall pick Byron Buxton (.114 BA) off to slow starts, as well as sixth-overall pick Albert Almora still yet to sign, here are some of the best high school hitters in the early going. I will be updating this every week, so stay tuned.
David Dahl, OF, Rockies, RD-1 PK-10
14 G, .375, 5 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 5 SB, .440/.625/1.065
Heading into the draft, Dahl was considered the best pure hitter among prep bats. Two weeks into his pro career, he has shown why. Playing for the Grand Junction Rockies of the Pioneer League, the 6’-2”, 185-pound left-hander has recorded a hit in 12 of his 14 games, including six multi-hit games. He had two triples and five RBI on June 26 and hit his first career home run on July 1. His six walks to just five strikeouts show the kind of advanced approach at the plate he has, and he has shown off his elite speed by swiping five bases already. Dahl’s favorite player is Jacoby Ellsbury, and so far, he is playing just like him.
Addison Russell, SS, Athletics, RD-1 PK-11
8 G, .400, 1 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 4 SB, .583/.720/1.303
At 6’-1″ and 215-pounds, many think Russell will outgrow shortstop and make a move over to third base where his strong arm and range would play well. Over his first eight games, he has looked every part a future shortstop at the next level and could very well maintain his current position. On the offensive side, he has been equally outstanding. He has shown an advanced approach at the plate by drawing 10 walks to five strikeouts, as well as showing off his wheels by swiping four bases. He also has great power potential, having some of the quickest bat speed around, and launched his second home run of the season on July 4 before the game was suspended due to weather.
Courtney Hawkins, OF, White Sox, RD-1 PK-13
13 G, .275, 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 SB .333/.373/.706
Over his last four games, Hawkins has gone 7-for-16 (.438) with eight runs, a double, home run and four RBI. He went 3-for-5 with five runs, a double, two RBI and a stolen base on June 30 and hit his first home run as a pro the following day. At 6’-3” and 220 pounds, the right-hander has easy power to all fields and is one of the best athletes in the draft.
D.J. Davis, OF, Blue Jays, RD-1 PK-17
11 G, .295, 0 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 5 SB, .367/.364/.731
Davis shot up draft boards all season long by displaying some of the best speed in the draft, as well as being able to make consistent contact from the left side with sneaky power. After a slow start, he is starting to settle in and look more comfortable at the plate. Over his last three games, he has gone 7-for-12 with a home run, two RBI and three stolen bases. The 6’-1”, 180-pound center fielder was one of the youngest players in the draft and won’t turn 18 until July 25.
Stryker Trahan, C, Diamondbacks, RD-1 PK-26
11 G, .297, 2 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 SB, .449/.514/.962
Trahan was considered the best high school catcher in the draft. At 6’-1” and 215 pounds, the left-hander has prodigious power and should hit for a high average at the next level with his compact swing and quick bat speed. He has reached safely in all but one of his games and has drawn 11 walks on the season. He drew four walks on June 23 and went 4-for-6 with a double, home run and four RBI the following day.
Lewis Brinson, OF, Rangers, RD-1 PK-29
11 G, .271, 6 2B, 3 3B, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 2 SB, .352/.521/.873
Brinson hasn’t hit a home run, but his nine extra-base hits over his first 11 games show the kind of power potential he has. He is a five-tool prospect who has been better than most thought early on. The only knock on him to this point is his 17 strikeouts, an area he will obviously need to work on as he moves up the organization. Over his last five games, he is 7-for-21 (.333) with three doubles, two triples and six RBI.
Joey Gallo, 3B, Rangers, RD-1A PK-39
11 G, .286, 3 3B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 10 RBI, .500/.771/1.271
Gallo has been arguably the most impressive player from his draft class. The 6’-5”, 215-pound left-hander has shown incredible power and patience at the plate, proving wrong scouts who thought his long swing could take some time to adjust to better pitching. He drew five walks in a game on June 23, and he has 15 over his first 11 games. He had his first multi-home run game on June 30, and has hit all four of his home runs and knocked in 10 runs over his last eight games. He has reached base in all but one game.
Matt Olsen, 1B, Athletics, RD- 1A PK-47
8 G, .333, 2 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 11 RBI, .333/.667/1.000
At 6’-4” and 235 pounds, Olsen was one of the premier power bats in the draft. In his first game as a pro on June 24, he went 4-for-5 with four runs, two doubles, a home run and four RBI. The power has definitely translated, but he will need to work on his approach at the plate if he wants to have continued success. Over his first eight games, he has struck out nine times and has yet to draw a walk. At just 18 years of age, however, the left-hander has plenty of time to put it all together, and with his size, the power potential is scary.
Jesse Winker, OF, Reds, RD-1A PK-49
14 G, .429, 4 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 8 RBI, .554/.510/1.064
Winker has already drawn 14 walks, showing a great batting eye. While he has yet to go yard, he does possess incredible power from the left side. After going 3-for-14 (.214) with one walk and seven strikeouts over his first four games, he has gone 18-for-35 (.514) with 13 walks and seven strikeouts over his last 10, good for a .646 OBP. He has also shown the ability to be a major run producer at the next level, going 5-for-11 with eight RBI with runners in scoring position.
Jesmuel Valentin, SS, Dodgers, RD-1A PK-51
9 G, .306, 4 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB, .395/.472/.868
Valentin may have taken a back seat to his teammate Carlos Correa in high school, but he has outplayed him thus far in the pros. Over his last six games, he has gone 9-for-24 (.375) and he has reached base in eight of his nine games. He has also shown a great approach at the plate by drawing six walks to just four strikeouts. Having grown up around the game his entire life (His dad, Jose Valentin, played 14 years in the majors), Jesmuel looks very comfortable on the field and unfazed with his new surroundings. The 5’-11”, 175-pound switch-hitter is a slick fielder who projects to a high-average hitter with above-average pop.
Tanner Rahier, SS, Reds, RD-2 PK-78
11 G, .262, 2 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 2 SB, .396/.524/.920
Seen as a lock for the first round, especially after impressing many teams with his workouts, Rahier inexplicably fell to the second round of the draft. Every other team’s loss is looking like the Reds gain as Rahier has been demonstrating his all-around talents at the Arizona League. He crushed a home run to dead center field in his first game as a pro and has shown an excellent approach at the plate by drawing 10 walks over his first 11 games. The 6’-2”, 200-pound right-hander has great power to all fields and should hit for a high average with his ability to make consistent contact and take what is given to him.
Nick Williams, OF, Rangers, RD-2 PK-93
11 G, .429, 4 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 7 SB, .462/.551/1.013
So much for being raw and needing time to refine his overall tools. Williams has been one of the best players from the draft so far and has recorded a hit in all 11 games he has played, including six multi-hit games. The 6’-3”, 190-pound left-hander has stolen two bases in each of his last two games, and while he hasn’t hit a home run yet, he does have four doubles and has some of the best power in his draft class. He has looked comfortable at the plate and isn’t over-swinging, something scouts were worried about.