Breaking down the best tools in the 2018 Draft makes if clear why Casey Mize has been the frontrunner to go No. 1 overall to the Tigers for most of the spring.
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The Auburn right-hander's splitter/changeup may be the most unhittable pitch in the entire Draft. He also has the best control among all pitchers on MLB Pipeline's Top 200 Draft Prospects list, not to mention one of the better sliders. While Mize missed making the cut for one of the top fastballs, he has a plus heater that ranges from 92-97 mph with running action and fine command.
Below, we identify the best of the best:
Best hitter: Nick Madrigal, 2B, Oregon State
Madigral's ability to barrel the ball, control the strike zone and produce repeated hard line-drive contact has been evident since he went 4-for-4 in his college debut. Though the right-handed hitter has missed half of this season after breaking his left wrist on an errant slide into home plate, he's batting .395/.495/.563 with just five strikeouts in 135 plate appearances. A right-handed hitter, he'd rank among NCAA Division I leaders in batting and contact rate if he had played enough to qualify.
Also in the running: Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha (Wis.) West HS; Jonathan India, 3B, Florida; Steele Walker, OF, Oklahoma State.
Best power: Nolan Gorman, 3B, O'Connor HS (Phoenix)
Gorman showed off his pop last summer while winning the High School Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game in Miami and another home run contest at the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field. He displays lightning-quick bat speed and impressive loft from the left side of the plate, and he carries plenty of strength in his 6-foot-1, 210-pound frame.
Also in the running: Triston Casas, 1B, American Heritage School (Plantation, Fla.); Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State; Trevor Larnach, OF, Oregon State.
Fastest runner: Max Marusak, OF, Amarillo (Texas) HS
Jordyn Adams, Kyler Murray and Jawuan Harris may get more notoriety because they get to show off their speed on the football field, but Marusak is the fastest player on the Top 200. He can get from the right side of the plate to first base in less than four seconds and cover 60 yards in 6.4 seconds.
Also in the running: Jordyn Adams, OF, Green Hope HS (Cary, N.C.); Kyler Murray, OF, Oklahoma; Jawuan Harris, OF, Rutgers.
Strongest arm: Blaze Alexander, SS, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
Alexander clocked a 99-mph throw at the Perfect Game National Showcase last June, breaking Carlos Correa's record for the hardest infield toss ever at a PG event. He can make every throw needed from shortstop and also has the range, hands and instincts to remain at the position.
Also in the running: Will Banfield, C, Brookwood HS (Snellville, Ga.); Joe Gray, OF, Hattiesburg (Miss.) HS; Jeremy Eierman, SS, Missouri State.
Best defender: Cadyn Grenier, SS, Oregon State
There aren't many plus defenders at shortstop in this Draft, but Grenier is one of them with outstanding hands and instincts, not to mention solid range and arm strength. He manned shortstop for the USA Collegiate National Team last summer and pushed Madrigal to second base at Oregon State.
Also in the running: Xavier Edwards, SS, North Broward Prep (Coconut Creek, Fla.); Mike Siani, OF, Penn Charter School (Philadelphia); Nick Meyer, C, Cal Poly.
Best fastball: Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS (Cumming, Ga.)
Though he was bothered by a muscular issue behind his pitching shoulder this spring, Hankins is capable of operating at 92-96 mph and reaching 98 with his fastball. There's still some projection remaining in his 6-foot-6 frame, so he could throw harder, but what makes his heater truly special is its electric life and his ability to command the pitch to both sides of the plate.
Also in the running: Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida; J.T. Ginn, RHP, Brandon (Miss.) HS; Bryce Montes de Oca, RHP, Missouri.
Best curveball: Carter Stewart, RHP, Eau Gallie HS (Melbourne, Fla.)
While Stewart has power on his low-80s bender, his spin rates are what really stand out. The Angels' Garrett Richards tops all big leaguers in curveball spin this year with an average of 3,236 rpm -- a figure Stewart routinely exceeded at showcase events last summer where pitch data was available.
Also in the running: Tim Cate, LHP, Connecticut; Ryan Rolison, LHP, Mississippi; Landon Marceaux, RHP, Destrehan (La.) HS.
Best slider: Griffin Roberts, RHP, Wake Forest
Roberts owns the best career strikeout rate (12.4 per nine innings) in Wake Forest history, racking up many of his whiffs with his devastating breaking ball. He throws his slider in the mid-80s with high spin rates, and it breaks so much that some scouts think it's more of a power curveball.
Also in the running: Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn; J.T. Ginn, RHP, Brandon (Miss.) HS; Durbin Feltman, RHP, Texas Christian.
Best changeup: Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn
While Mize can get swings and misses with his entire arsenal, his mid-80s splitter/changeup is most allergic to bats. Not only does his split/change plummet at the plate, but he also commands it better than most.
Also in the running: Steven Gingery, LHP, Texas Tech; Jackson Kowar, RHP, Florida; Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida.
Best control: Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn
Mize's control and command are as impressive as his stuff. After topping NCAA Division I with a 12.1 K/BB ratio in 2017, he's doing the same this spring and has improved his mark to 14.0 this spring (second in D-I).
Also in the running: Nick Sandlin, RHP, Southern Mississippi; Paul Richan, RHP, San Diego; Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge HS (Glendale, Ariz.)