Draft | Story | 6/16/2017

2017 MLB Draft Impressions

Patrick Ebert        
Photo: Perfect Game

Lewis, Greene, Gore go 1-2-3
| 2017 MLB Draft Preview Content

With the completion of the 2017 MLB Draft we identify a handful of teams whose drafting efforts stood out. You can view all of the picks from the 2017 MLB Draft – round-by-round and team-by-team – including those that sign leading up to the mid-July deadline, here.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers started off their draft by taking a top-10 caliber talent who fell in Jeren Kendall, arguably the top positional talent in the collegiate class. Kendall’s drop likely had everything to do with his swing-and-miss concerns, but a player with his caliber of tools has the upside of a legitimate everyday Major Leaguer, even if his hit tool needs work.

Several teams had first-round grades on Texas’ Morgan Cooper, who the Dodgers got in the second round. Connor Wong from Houston has everyday player upside as an extremely athletic catcher or potentially even as a true super utility player. They got very good upside in James Marinan, their fourth round pick, a prep righthander who many teams valued towards the top of the second round. Riley Ottesen from Utah is especially interesting in the fifth round, as he’s been up to 98-99 mph this spring as a starter and could have extreme righthanded velocity out of the bullpen.

LA did well later on as well. Jacob Amaya, their 11th rounder, is a prep shortstop from California who was valued well ahead of where they selected him. Andre Jackson, their 12th rounder, is a wildcard in that he didn’t pitch in 2017 due to Tommy John surgery but is hyper-athletic and was up to 95 mph when healthy. They also selected the college baseball strikeout king in Marshall Kasowski – a righthander from West Texas A&M – in the 13th round, and he, along with specifically 17th rounder Nathan Witt and 19th rounder Zach Willeman, offer intriguing bullpen upside.

Watch out for 36th rounder Riley Richert from Howard College as well. He has some things to straighten out but is capable of producing mid-90s fastballs with heavy sink.

Minnesota Twins

With the first overall pick – as well as picks at 35 and 37 – the Twins were expected to knock this draft out of the park and it certainly looks like they did. They tabbed prep shortstop/center fielder Royce Lewis as the No. 1 overall selection, a great pick with excellent upside, and likely saved some money in the process. They’ll use that money to sign, specifically, third-rounder Blayne Enlow, a prep righthander and fellow PG All-American from Louisiana who was considered a borderline first round pick by the industry. They also got Brent Rooker, college baseball’s best offensive player, at pick 35 and he should mash in the Major Leagues eventually as well.

Two picks later they tabbed prep righthander Landon Leach, a good upside player at that point in the draft. They also went for upside a little later on Day 2, as they grabbed both Chipola’s Andrew Bechtold, a toolsy third baseman, and Ricardo De La Torre, a Puerto Rican shortstop who is extremely raw but extremely talented.

There was an element of safety here as well, as the Twins selected Charlie Barnes, a lefty from Clemson, in the fourth round – who could pitch in the Major Leagues soon thanks to a combination of guile, pitchability and a plus changeup – as well as JuCo lefty Ryley Widell, who offers a good combo of upside and safety.

The Twins took some interesting Day 3 selections as well, starting with 11th rounder Gabriel Rodriguez, a Puerto Rican outfielder who could also end up as a lefthanded pitcher. College of Charleston’s Bailey Ober was a very good pick in the 12th as he was valued much higher on several boards. Ricky Ramirez offers interesting bullpen upside, as he’s been up to 95-96 mph with his fastball and has a solid cutter as well. Jordan Spicer, the team’s 26th rounder from Polk State, offers very good value as he had done a very good job of rising up boards all spring.

Cincinnati Reds

You can’t mention draft highlights without mentioning the Reds, who snagged the top talent in the class at No. 2 overall in Hunter Greene. Greene offers potentially generational-type talent and has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation starter for a decade (or more) in Cincinnati. The Reds also went for upside with their second pick in Jeter Downs, a prep shortstop from South Florida who has a good combination of tools and upside.

Stuart Fairchild could have very easily gone in the back of the first round, but the center fielder from Wake Forest slipped to the Reds’ second-round selection and offers legitimate everyday player upside, a great value there. Prep lefthander Jacob Heatherly was a great pick in the third round as he offers a higher floor than most high school arms. He profiles as a very good No. 4 starter with the potential for an above average fastball and plus curveball.

The Reds’ seventh rounder is especially intriguing as Mark Kolozsvary never played much at Florida but was pressed into duty this spring when Mike Rivera went down with an injury. He is raw for a college player, but has a plus arm, good defensive actions and some righthanded raw power as well.

It’s to be determined if he signs or not, but if the Reds can get their 12th rounder, Tommy Mace, into the fold this class likely goes from very good to potentially the best. Mace was valued in the second round on the PG board, and while it’s relatively unlikely he signs, it’s a good play there for the Reds to try and make a run at him. Ryan Nutof, the team’s 16th rounder from Michigan, offers solid bullpen upside as he’s been into the mid-90s at times with developing off-speed stuff. Nineteenth rounder Seth Lonsway, a prep lefty from Celina, Ohio, is likely unsignable but he was valued in the third to fourth rounds by most teams.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers, for the first time in a long time, definitely made a concerted effort to take a different approach to drafting in 2017. Their first round pick, Alex Faedo from Florida, was a very good match in terms of value, upside and safety as the righthander has all the ingredients of a mid-rotation starter with a relatively high floor as well. They swung for the fences, literally and figuratively, with Reynaldo Rivera in the second round. His upside is enormous but there is a pretty significant risk factor there as well making him a boom-or-bust type of prospect, something, to be fair, the Tigers system has lacked in terms of upside since Steven Moya was an actual prospect.

Joey Morgan, the catcher from Washington, is a fine pick in the third round in terms of value and definitely has a Major League profile, while fourth rounder Gio Arriera from Palm Beach State JC was a pick with a fair amount of upside, something the Tigers haven’t gone for in recent years between rounds 4-8.

Fifth-rounder Sam McMillan, a prep catcher from Florida, has intriguing tools on both sides of the ball and was valued by teams as high as the third round, making him another legitimate upside guy. Dane Myers was unfairly pegged by Tigers fans in the sixth-round as a “typical Tigers college reliever pick,” but that’s short-sighted as Myers is a pretty fresh arm with serious upside as he transitions to pitching full time.

The pick of the draft for the Tigers may be Garett King, the righthander from Cal Baptist, in the 11th round. King was valued on most boards as high as the fourth or fifth rounds. Fourteenth rounder Antoine Mistico, 18th rounder Dyan Rosa and 24th rounder Jordan Knutson are all excellent picks given where they were taken.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs didn’t exactly have the sexiest draft, but when you take into account the fact that both their current Major League club and farm system are loaded, you can see why they seemed to lean towards more quickly-moving arms than younger upside types. They had two first round selections and went with Brendon Little and Alex Lange, two power-armed collegiate pitchers, with Little from State College of Florida JC and Lange from LSU. Both may trend to relievers long term, and if put in the bullpen could move very quickly. Despite the fact that one is a lefty and one is a righty they have similar profiles in that both are power-armed collegiate performers with plus curveballs.

Cory Abbott in the second round was intriguing, as he was a late-rising collegiate performer with some potentially untapped-into upside, and Jeremiah Estrada in the sixth round was one of the best value picks of the class if he signs there.

The Cubs went with college arms in the third and fourth with Keegan Thompson and Erich Uelman as both offer Major League upside even if the upside on the whole isn’t that high. Ricky Tyler Thomas in the seventh round could be a steal if he fully regains his early-season velocity, as he dropped to more 84-88 mph as the season wore on after sitting in the upper-80s to low-90s from the left side.

Brandon Hughes in the 16th round looks like a steal as the Michigan State center fielder has legitimate tools with the ability to stick in center field long term. If he hits at all that’s a great pick for them.

Atlanta Braves

The Braves started off the draft with a bang, getting Kyle Wright – the No. 2 player on the PG draft board – to fall to them at No. 5 overall and making the selection. In picking Wright the Braves got an advanced starting pitching prospect who profiles potentially as high as a No. 2 starter, another arm to add to the Braves already impressive stable of pitching prospects.

In the second round the Braves got a first-round talent in Georgia prep outfielder Drew Waters, a switch-hitting center field prospect with a loud collection of tools to go along with an advanced feel to hit from both sides of the plate. In Waters they got a potential impact, every day-caliber center fielder who will impact the game in several ways. They got a wildcard in the third round in Florida prep righthander Freddy Tarnok who has shown big-time upside on the mound but hasn’t really thrown a whole lot.

Junior college righthander Troy Bacon in the fourth has legitimate reliever upside, as he’s been up to 99 mph this spring and can really blow up the fastball in short stints. Bruce Zimmerman from Mt. Olive has rotation upside with four quality pitches that he mixes well, while Tennessee’s Jordan Rodgers is a very nice senior sign with good third base tools and some raw pop from the right side. They looked for upside with their 11th rounder as well, taking Michigan’s Drew Lugbauer. He’s likely a first baseman long term but has plus lefthanded raw power, though he does swing and miss quite a bit.

The team’s 19th and 20th round picks, Tanner Allison from Western Michigan and Justin Smith from St. Johns River State, are both nice upside players at that point in the draft.

Houston Astros

With a commanding lead in the American League Central, the Houston Astros are an interesting pairing with live-armed UNC ace J.B. Bukauskas, who may have the best raw stuff of any pitcher in the draft yet fell further than initially thought. That had everything to do with his profile as a 6-foot righthander with questions surrounding his future role, but he could thrive as a bullpen ace, and he could do so sooner rather than later.

The Astros continued to collect live arms when they selected Corbin Martin, Tyler Ivey, Peter Solomon, Parker Mushinski and Kyle Serrano among their top 10 picks, a group of pitchers that on paper could form a fairly dynamic future bullpen.

Although Joe Perez, the team’s second round pick, had Tommy John surgery he offers big power potential as a two-way prospect, and for now the Astros intend to develop him as a third baseman. J.J. Matijevic, who enjoyed a huge season at Arizona while playing first, is a well-rounded athletic player that the Astros believe could stick at second.Jake Adams (first base), Corey Julks (outfield) and Mike Papierski (catcher) all bring intriguing tools to the table among the teams other position prospect draftees in the top 10 rounds.

Of the team’s picks outside of the top 10 rounds, both Brandon Bielak (11th round) and Matt Ruppenthal (17th) are big-bodied righthanders with solid stuff and could at the very least enjoy success immediately upon entering the team’s minor league system.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates certainly aren’t adverse to taking players that may have a riskier signing profile, as they employed an aggressive approach with their top four picks grabbing a pair of high school righthanders (Shane Baz and Steven Jennings) as well as a pair of high school outfielders (Calvin Mitchell and Conner Uselton). Baz, Mitchell and Uselton were all PG All-Americans, which quickly speaks to their status as prospects, while Jennings was more of a late riser, but all four offer promising tools highlighted by big fastballs and equally big power potential.

Not surprisingly as the first pick of this quartet, Baz has the most exciting upside, with one of the livest arms available for this year’s draft and reports that he could go among the top 10 overall picks given his performance throughout the spring. He also swings big bat, a nice plus for a National League squad.

After those four the Pirates didn’t simply sit back and take a college senior approach either, as they scooped up a handful of college players with promising upsides, including hard-hitting Florida State corner infielder Dylan Busby, athletic Saint Joseph’s catcher Deon Stafford and toolsy Arizona outfielder Jared Oliva.

Although he’s unlikely to sign based on where he was drafted (36th round), if the Pirates somehow get Ryan Hoerter into their system that could be a huge addition. A rising athlete with a super-projectable 6-foot-6 frame, Hoerter is just starting to scratch the surface of what he’s capable of doing on the mound. Auburn fans, you’ve been made aware.

Milwaukee Brewers

Simply by the number of position players the Brewers took it is pretty clear it was their intent to improve the depth of hitting talent in their system. With their first pick they selected Keston Hiura, arguably the best hitter available, despite some questions about where he fits on the field defensively, and added one of the more proven college hitters over the last three seasons with K.J. Harrison in round three. Prep outfielder Tristen Lutz, who resembles a linebacker on the gridiron, and high school righthander Caden Lemons, who looks more like a forward on the hardwood, were their picks sandwich in between Hiura and Harrison. Both high school players had moved up draft boards this spring with strong senior year performances and promising overall tools.

After taking Brendan Murphy, a promising and athletic high school lefthander with an upper-80s to low-90s fastball currently, the Brewers took yet another player defined mostly for his offensive potential, high school third baseman Nick Egnatuk. After Egnatuk the Brewers took a short break from bats to add two interesting college pitchers: Bowden Francis and Jayson Rose. Francis was the ace of the D-I JUCO champs, Chipola, armed with a big fastball that touches as high as 97, while Rose had arguably the best changeup available in the draft as part of his deep repertoire and polished overall approach.

However, the most interesting part about the Brewers draft may be the number of high school players they added from rounds 11-19. While they are unlikely to add all, or even most, of these players, any signing combination of Max Lazar, Je’Von Ward, Abdiel Layer, Gage Workman, Christian Santana, Justin Bullock, Leugim Castillo, Ledgend Smith and Noah Campbell could go a long way to bolstering an already strong system.

Baltimore Orioles

‘Patient’ could be a word used to describe the Orioles draft, at least with their early picks, as it seems unlikely that they figured PG All-American East starting pitcher D.L. Hall would make it to the 21st overall pick thanks to his low- to mid-90s heater and signature hammer curve. They added a second Hall, and a second PG All-American as well, with their second pick in Canadian shortstop Adam Hall.

Two more high-upside high school players were added with the team’s fourth- and fifth-round picks in 6-foor-4 righthander Jack Conlon, whose big fastball matches his Texas-sized stature, and fellow Texan Lamar Sparks, a speedy outfielder with five-tool potential.

Otherwise, the bulk of the Orioles’ top 10 picks were college players, highlighted by two fairly high profile arms, Xavier lefthander Zac Lowther and Jacksonville righthander Michael Baumann. While neither pitcher possesses frontline stuff, both have big bodies to sustain the rigors of starting and could factor in as mid-rotation innings eaters down the road. Shortstop Mason McCoy, catcher Ben Breazeale and outfielder T.J. Nichting will give the organization some interesting depth options up the middle on defense.

Among the players taken outside of the top 10 rounds, keep an eye on PG All-American lefthander Logan Allen who the O’s plucked up in the 16th round. While it’s more likely that he attends FIU based on where he was selected, a good draft would turn that much better should they find a way to add him to the organization.

Toronto Blue Jays

Similar to the Brewers the Blue Jays loaded up on hitters with their early picks, selecting position players with seven of their top nine selections. The first of which was arguably the most well-rounded shortstop eligible, Logan Warmoth, who enjoyed an All-American season at North Carolina while showing the ability to hit for average and power while playing solid defense with a good arm and enough speed to make a difference with his wheels.

Fourth-rounder Kevin Smith gives the Blue Jays another promising shortstop, who may not have the pure hit tool that Warmoth possesses but he checks all of the other boxes. Their second- and third-round picks consisted of a pair of catchers with intriguing backgronds. Hagen Danner, who also excels on the mound, at one point was ranked the No. 1 overall prospect in the high school class of 2017 as a position player. Riley Adams, who enjoyed a big season at the plate for San Diego, may not stick behind the plate long-term but has the power/power profile that could make him a good fit in right field.

Taken six picks after Warmoth was Nate Pearson, the top-ranked junior college prospect who ended up being the second JUCO player selected, one pick after the Cubs took Brendon Little. Pearson has big stuff to match his big stature as one of the hardest throwers eligible for the draft. Seventh-rounder Colton Laws, who stands at 6-foot-8, enjoyed a big season for Charlotte, as did ninth-rounder Zach Logue at Kentucky and 10th-rounder Justin Dillon for Sacramento State.

Los Angeles Angels

While the profile isn’t quite the same, when the Angels selected Jordon Adell with the 10th overall pick it stirred up a memory of another high school outfielder the team took in the first round: Mike Trout. Adell was sandwiched in between Hunter Greene, the second overall pick in the draft, and Royce Lewis, who went No 1 overall to the Twins, as part of the Perfect Game high school player rankings thanks to his incredible collection of tools. In other words, if Adell does progress and come close to reaching his potential the Halos could have another perennial all-star roaming their outfield.

The Angels’ strong draft didn’t stop with Adell. With their second selection they took Griffin Canning, UCLA’s ace the past several years who could move quickly thanks to his four-pitch repertoire and overall polish. Jacob Pearson, like Adell, was a member of the 2016 Perfect Game All-American Classic and combines a sweet lefthanded swing with good speed.

John Swanda and Joseph Booker, a pair of prep righthanders the Angels took in the fourth and fifth rounds, both have projectable, athletic frames and improving stuff, which led to rising draft profiles. They along with Canning supplement the organization’s pitching depth in the lower levels.

Keep an eye on Jerryell Rivera Gonzalez, the team’s 11th-round pick, a lefthander from Puerto Rico whose loose and projectable frame and improving stuff led to an ever-improving prospect profile.

New York Yankees

Although he missed the second half of the season due to injury, an injury that led to Tommy John surgery, the Yankees scouting staff had seen enough of South Carolina ace Clarke Schmidt to take him with the 16th overall pick. Once Schmidt is fully recovered from injury that could prove to be a very astute pick, as he, pre-injury, was expected to move quickly towards the majors thanks to the command of his impressive repertoire, which includes a low- to mid-90s fastball and sharp-breaking slider.

The Yankees ended up taking nine pitchers among their top 10 picks, including the ultra-projectable Matt Sauer with their second rounder. Sauer checks in at an impressive 6-foot-4, 205-pounds with plenty of room for added strength, which led to improving fastball velocity throughout the spring, transforming himself from a upper-80s to low-90s hurler to one that sat in the 92-94 mph range this spring, topping out 96-97 with potentially more to come.

Arkansas Trevor Stephan, the team’s third-rounder, is the rare still-projectable college pitcher with a sinker/slider profile, while Glenn Otto, who was taken in the fifth round, offers a power profile as a late-inning stopper with the ability to go multiple innings. The team’s lone hitter taken in the top 10 rounds, outfielder Canaan Smith, is a strength-based player with big power potential.

There are a lot of bigger names among their late-round picks, including Pat DeMarco, Riley Thompson, Tristan Beck, Jake Mangum and Tanner Burns, as a good draft could be that much better if they’re able to add any of these players to their system.

College Recruiting Impact

The players that end up signing from this year’s draft will have a much greater impact on the respective recruiting classes, and we won’t have a full idea of that picture until mid-July. However, here’s a quick look at the top 5 recruiting classes as ranked by Perfect Game.

1. Florida International
FIU’s recruiting class had a lot to do with volume, so it’s not surprising that four of their top five recruits were drafted within the top eight rounds. As long as they hold onto the next wave of recruits, many of whom were drafted in the teens, they should still have a strong class.

2. Florida
Of the program’s 12 recruits ranked within Perfect Game’s top 200 prospects from the high school class of 2017 only three were selected in the top six rounds, including second-rounder Sam Carlson. Tommy Mace was a 12th rounder, making him the next likely risk not to arrive on campus, otherwise the Gators appear to land another promising haul come fall.

3. Miami
The Hurricanes were hit pretty hard by the draft, as Mark Vientos, Jeter Downs, Joseph Perez and James Marinan were all drafted early, meaning it’s more likely than not that they begin their professional careers. That said, Alejandro Toral went undrafted, and Christopher McMahon was likely drafted too late (33rd round) to sign.

4. Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt has been one of the most successful recruiting schools in recent years, and that shouldn’t change heading into next season as none of the team’s recruits were selected earlier than the 25th round. That includes five players ranked among Perfect Game’s top 100 from the class of 2017.

5. Southern California
After the signing deadline the Trojans’ fifth-ranked class almost assuredly will drop, as they likely will lose their top three recruits (Hans Crouse, Nick Allen and Nick Pratto) and possibly another in Je’Von Ward. They should still get their two other top 100-ranked players on campus, Kyle Hurt and Ben Ramirez, but still, it looks as though the draft hit USC hard.

To view the full recruiting class rankings for the 2017-18 school year, as well as the players that make up those classes, please visit this link.

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