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Draft  | Rankings  | 3/23/2018

2018 MLB Draft: Top 250 Prospects

David Rawnsley     
Photo: Auburn Athletics

The rankings as shown below are a combination of Perfect Game's personal observations and opinions combined with those from the scouting community. To view Perfect Game's player rankings for the high school class of 2018, please visit this link.

The 2018 spring season has reached approximately the one-third mark and the 2018 June Draft, to be held on the relatively early dates of June 4-6, is shaping up to be a strong one, especially if you are an organization that covets talented high ceiling pitching.

A big focus of cross-checkers’ attention in the early spring is seeing the top pitching right out of the gate and picking up the top position players as opportunity allows, preferably against upper-level pitching. Conversations with numerous cross-checkers by the Perfect Game scouting staff, plus a steady schedule of games, indicate that there have been few disappointments thus far and plenty of pleasant surprises.

The two biggest names on the college side have been Auburn righthander Casey Mize and South Florida southpaw Shane McClanahan, both of whom have put themselves solidly in the mix for the Detroit Tigers' No. 1 overall pick.

Mize has gone 5-0, 1.94 over his first five starts, allowing only 15 hits in 32 innings while striking out 51 hitters and only walking three. While Mize has three present plus pitches in his mid-90s fastball, a power split-finger and a 90 mph cutter in addition to his outstanding control, it's notable that all his pitches register in the upper-80s at minimum. That's an unusual combination that will leave scouts thinking about what that will mean for a big league starter.

McClanahan has been just as dominant, posting a 3-1, 0.00 record over five starts and 30 innings, striking out an NCAA leading 56 hitters, although he has issued more walks (13) than he has allowed hits (12). The third-year sophomore, who missed the 2016 season after undergoing TJ surgery, has consistently been working in the mid- to upper-90s with his fastball and flashing plus on a low-80s curveball and mid-80s changeup.

Mize and McClanahan have separated themselves for many scouts from the next tier of college arms, which include righthanders Jackson Kowar and Brady Singer from Florida, Stetson righthander Logan Gilbert and Mississippi draft-eligible sophomore lefthander Ryan Rollison. Singer, who sat atop many scouts lists to start the spring, has performed extremely well in the Friday night role for the No. 1-ranked Gators, going 5-0, 1.97 with a 32-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 32 innings, but his raw stuff is down across the board as he works out inconsistencies in his arm slot.

Two high school pitchers have consistently been mentioned as potential No. 1 picks since last summer. The consensus top high school prospect, Georgia righthander Ethan Hankins, has missed the last month with shoulder soreness, although he did take the mound again this week in a rain-shortened appearance. Hankins has built up such a strong record over the last year that it will be hard for him to drop too far if he recovers successfully, but teams will be sure to follow his health closely.

For many scouts, Arizona lefthander Matt Liberatore ranks ahead of Hankins at this point, especially as he continues to consolidate and add to the velocity gains he made last summer while continuing to improve his curveball and changeup. The San Francisco Giants, who hold the second pick in the draft, have reportedly been especially active in their interest in Liberatore.

The big story in the high school pitching ranks, though, has been the significant improvement in a number of young pitchers from last summer to this spring, improvement that has vaulted many into first day consideration. As one cross-checker noted, "90 used to be the average prospect fastball to get a kid looked at – I'm pretty sure that has been 93 for high school righthanders this spring."

Two Florida right handers, Carter Stewart and Mason Denaburg, are now considered potential top 10 picks, although hstory shows that high school righthanders tend to slide a bit closer to the draft as teams get conservative. Stewart's velocity, which was consistently 89-92 mph last summer, has spiked into the 92-95 range, touching 98 mph at times, to go with his usual otherworldly curveball. Denaburg, who is still in his first year as a primary pitcher, has significantly improved his breaking ball and feel for pitching as he works more innings. As a boon for scouts, Stewart and Denaburg have matched up against each other already this spring.

On the other coast, California righthander Cole Winn has continued to impress scouts and improve his draft stock, although maybe not to the degree that Stewart and Denaburg have. Winn stands out as the top prep pitching prospect in the West, along with Washington righthander Jason Schroeder, while fellow righties Kyle Luckham and Chandler Champlain, as well as shortstop Matt McLain, are three more high school players from California that are on the rise.

Other high school pitchers who have significantly improved their stock, noting that most high school teams in the northern tier states haven't started playing yet, include Florida's Lyon Richardson and Stewart's Eau Galle High School teammate Nick Pogue, North Carolina's Jason Jarvis and the Texas duo of lefty Mason Montgomery and righthander Grayson Rodriguez.

South Alabama center fielder Travis Swaggerty is considered by many to be the top college position player at this early date. The 5-foot-11 outfielder has been getting comparisons to the Red Sox Andrew Benintendi with better defensive tools and skills. Benintendi went seventh overall in the 2015 draft and Swaggerty could slot in right around that spot as well if he continues his strong play.

Oregon State infielder Nick Madrigal's early season broken hand won't hurt him in the draft but it has helped give two college mid-fielder's more attention and potential Day 1 draft status. Florida third baseman Jonathan India has been on a tear with the bat, hitting .397-8-18 through 21 games while playing plus defense at third base. Stanford's Nico Hoerner projects to stay in the middle infield as a professional, a rarity in this college class, and is off to a strong start with the bat, having already surpassed his career home run total after 15 games.

Georgia high school catcher Will Banfield has had a strong start to the spring and remains the top high school catcher for most teams but he may have been surpassed on many team's draft lists by Georgia Tech's Joey Bart. Bart's righthanded bat has always been a weapon and he's hitting .377-8-17 this spring with big middle-of-the-field power, but his agility and overall defensive skills have taken a big step forward this spring.

Arizona shortstop/third baseman Nolan Gorman was the top high school position player on many team's lists coming into the spring and he has done nothing to disappoint, hitting .536-5-20 after 11 games. Gorman was such a dominant presence on the 2017 summer circuit that it would be hard to imagine him performing in any other way and teams picking in the top five will surely have him on their short lists. Another top prep lefthanded hitter, Wisconsin's Jarred Kelenic, just started to play in front of scouts outside this past week as part of six-week Sunday series between Kelenic's Hitters Baseball team and the PG-run Iowa Select program.

One of the factors that has contributed to a smooth spring thus far for scouts is that significant injuries seem to have been few and far between. Aside from Hankins’ and Magrigal's temporary setbacks, the other notable injuries have been limited to Texas Tech's Steve Gingery and Florida State's Tyler Holton. Both lefthanders have undergone TJ surgery.

Top 10 Prospects, 2018 MLB Draft

Rk. Player POS. School Rk. Player Pos. School
1 Casey Mize RHP Auburn 6 Ryan Rolison LHP Ole Miss
2 Matthew Liberatore LHP Mountain Ridge 7 Nick Madrigal 2B Oregon State
3 Shane McClanahan LHP South Florida 8 Nolan Gorman 3B/SS Sandra Day O'Connor
4 Ethan Hankins RHP Forsyth Central 9 Mason Denaburg RHP Merritt Island
5 Travis Swaggerty OF South Alabama 10 Jarred Kelenic OF Waukesha West

Top 250 Prospects, 2018 MLB Draft

Column L = Level (C = College; H = High School; J = Junior College)

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