No one expects new draftees to figure everything out about the professional game right out of the gate. The first professional summer for a Draft class is really about just getting acclimated to the game, learning about things like preparing to play on a daily basis, or hitting with/pitching to
No one expects new draftees to figure everything out about the professional game right out of the gate. The first professional summer for a Draft class is really about just getting acclimated to the game, learning about things like preparing to play on a daily basis, or hitting with/pitching to wood bats.
That doesn't mean, of course, that fast starts aren't welcome. A strong pro debut can help a draftee jump on a faster track to the big leagues, especially for the college set. Earning a promotion can point to a more aggressive assignment when the first full season comes along. If nothing else, it can give a player a good confidence boost heading into the offseason.
A number of players from the 2017 Draft class have gotten off to good starts to their pro careers. Below is a list of hitters and pitchers from the first round who have been impressive from the get-go.
1. Keston Hiura, DH, Brewers
Hiura has yet to play the field, though the Brewers feel the No. 9 overall pick will avoid Tommy John surgery. But he certainly has shown why some thought he was the most advanced bat in the Draft class, reaching full-season ball and hitting .404/.456/.679 over his first 134 pro at-bats.
MILB Video - Title: Hiura's RBI double - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1689134783
2. Heliot Ramos, OF, Giants
Ramos might have been a bit of a surprise to go No. 19 overall, but he's hitting like he belongs there, with a .347/.389/.614 slash line, along with three homers, seven steals and 16 RBIs over his first 101 at-bats in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
3. Pavin Smith, 1B, D-backs
The other one who got "most advanced college bat" votes, Smith hasn't hit for power just yet, but his .336/.420/.423 line in 137 at-bats is impressive, and he's continued a trend he set in college by walking more often than he strikes out.
MILB Video - Title: Smith notches fourth hit - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1631146583
4. Jo Adell, OF, Angels
There may have been concerns about Adell's swing and miss entering the Draft, but that certainly hasn't been a problem during his time in the Arizona League, as he's hit .345/.389/.643 with four homers and four steals in 22 games, with an acceptable strikeout rate (18 K's).
5. Chris Seise, SS, Rangers
The Florida high school shortstop has already earned a promotion up to the short-season Northwest League, hitting .313/.366/.484 with a dozen extra-base hits and five steals in 128 total at-bats.
1. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres
The high school southpaw hasn't pitched a lot, but Gore has been awfully impressive with the innings he's been given, yielding just three hits and one walk over 8 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out 13 in the Arizona League.
2. Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays
Pearson has brought his elite-level fastball to the short-season Northwest League after a quick stop in the Gulf Coast League. Again pitching sparingly, he's given up two hits over five scoreless frames, striking out seven while not allowing a walk.
3. Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves
Wright has advanced farther than any other first-round arm, up to the Class A Advanced Florida State League. He's gone four scoreless, allowing just one walk and one hit after giving up one run in the Gulf Coast League, with a combined .125 batting average against.
4. Brendan McKay, LHP, Rays
McKay's long-term future might be as a first baseman, but he's given up just one hit and struck out seven in five innings on the mound in the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League.
MILB Video - Title: McKay notches a K - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1698362383
5. Tanner Houck, RHP, Red Sox
Houck has given up four earned runs in 10 1/3 innings, but he's whiffed a dozen in that time while holding New York-Penn League hitters to a .205 batting average against in five outings.
Beyond the first round
Of course, strong debuts are not limited to those taken in the opening round of the Draft. Here are five more hitters and pitchers from beyond that first round who are off to good starts.
Brent Rooker, OF/1B, Twins (Competitive Balance Round A)
The Mississippi State product is already up in the Florida State League, and while Rooker is hitting just .252, he leads all draftees with 11 homers across two levels.
Michael Gigliotti, OF, Royals (fourth round)
After a huge summer in the Cape Cod League, Gigliotti slumped for much of his junior season at Lipscomb. He did get it going late and that has carried over to the Appalachian League, where he's hit .331/.445/.486 with 15 steals.
Bryce Johnson, OF, Giants (sixth round)
The switch-hitter out of Sam Houston State stole 33 bases during his college season, and Johnson has led draftees with 17 more. The center fielder is also hitting .333 with a .402 OBP in the Class A Short-Season Northwest League.
Ben Breazeale, C, Orioles (seventh round)
The backstop went from Wake Forest to the New York-Penn League, where Breazeale is currently leading the league in batting average (.371), OBP (.474) and OPS (1.009).
Ryan Noda, 1B/OF, Blue Jays (15th round)
The Cincinnati product has been making it look easy in the Appalachian League, leading draftees (with more than 100 ABs) with his .416 average, his .553 OBP and his 1.210 OPS. Noda's .657 SLG is second only to Hiura.
Corbin Martin, RHP, Astros (second round)
Over Martin's 16 innings of work, the Texas A&M product has allowed just six hits for a .113 batting average against. He's walked just two and struck out 19 while allowing two runs in the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues.
Hans Crouse, RHP, Rangers (second round)
The SoCal teenager has been dominant in the Rookie-level Arizona League, striking out 17 in his 13 innings of work to date. Crouse has allowed just six hits (.136 BAA) and four walks (0.77 WHIP) while allowing just one earned run.
Zac Lowther, LHP, Orioles (Competitive Balance Round B)
The 74th overall pick out of Xavier, Lowther is tied among all draftees with 35 strikeouts in his 28 1/3 innings of work in the New York-Penn League. He's walked just four and given up 21 hits while posting a 0.95 ERA.
Ricky Tyler Thomas, LHP, Cubs (seventh round)
The southpaw struggled at times during his final season at Fresno State, but Thomas has thrown well so far in the Northwest League, putting up 10 shutout innings, allowing seven hits and five walks while striking out 14.
Elijah Morgan, RHP, Indians (eighth round)
Pitching almost entirely out of the bullpen, the former Gonzaga righty has struck out 32 in 18 1/3 innings, for an eye-popping 16.0 K/9 ratio in the NY-Penn League. Hitters are managing just a .203 BAA and Morgan has a 0.98 ERA.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.