Every Draft class has its fair share of players who both pitch and hit at the amateur level, even for top-flight Division I college programs. But it often becomes clear in the months leading up to the Draft whether teams prefer a player as a pitcher or a hitter.In this
Every Draft class has its fair share of players who both pitch and hit at the amateur level, even for top-flight Division I college programs. But it often becomes clear in the months leading up to the Draft whether teams prefer a player as a pitcher or a hitter.
In this year's class, dual talent starts right at the top. Hunter Greene would no doubt be a first-round pick as an infielder -- one with tremendous power potential and the ability to stay on the dirt. But he's separated himself as a pitcher, and he should be taken in the top few picks as a right-hander. He has the chance to become the first high school right-handed pitcher to go No. 1 overall, and it was announced on Tuesday that he would not pitch for his Notre Dame High School (Sherman Oaks, Calif.) team for the remainder of the spring in order to protect his prized arm.
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On the flip side, there's fellow SoCal high schooler Nick Pratto. He's developed into one of the best prep hitters in the class, with his power starting to show up as a first baseman. But Pratto entered the spring as a dual threat, one who looked like he could have a future as a left-hander who competed extremely well on the mound, winning some big games for Team USA in international competition.
In the college ranks, Adam Haseley plays the outfield and pitches on Sundays for the University of Virginia. But like Pratto, his stock has shot up because of his bat and his outfield play. Now Haseley's name is being mentioned as a potential top-half-of-the-first-round selection.
But not every case is a slam dunk, and teams also make sure they know which way a player wants to go. It's tougher to get buy-in if a team wants a player to pitch if he has his mind set on hitting every day. Louisville's Brendan McKay is perhaps the biggest two-way tossup in recent memory; Jim Callis recently wrote in a Pipeline Inbox that the last time a player was considered a Top 10 pick as both a pitcher and a hitter was when Dave Winfield was drafted in 1973.
McKay will be near the top of our new Top 100 Draft prospects list coming later this week, and it would be either as a left-handed pitcher or as a first baseman. On the mound, he's gone 5-3 with a 1.83 ERA, holding hitters to a .180 batting average while striking out 83 (vs. just 15 walks) in 59 innings as the Cardinals' Friday night starter. McKay hits in the middle of the lineup and plays first when he's not pitching (he hits on those days, too), and he is hitting .388 with plenty of power potential. That certainly was on display on Tuesday when he had a four-homer, nine-RBI game.
"We have a split camp at what he's better at," one scouting director said about his own scouting staff, but also reflecting an industry-wide division. "The first question I always pose is, 'Where is he the best prospect in our organization?'
"Going one step further, if they say, 'as a position player,' that's fine. That is how we will draft that individual, wherever it may be. In the back of my mind -- and I don't emphasize this during the Draft because you don't want to have uncertainty about a player you're investing significant dollars in -- I'm always thinking, 'If he can't hit, you can always put him on the mound.' It does create better value for the player as a backup plan."
A little further down in the rankings is Pratto's teammate Hagen Danner, a catcher and right-handed starting pitcher. Over the summer, Danner showcased himself largely on the mound, and he was impressive. This spring, he's been up to 95 mph with a solid breaking ball and changeup, with some scouts feeling that every time he goes behind the plate, he's costing himself because it takes away from his pitching performance. But there are also many scouts who really like Danner's all-around game behind the plate and his power potential with a bat in his hands.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.