NEW: 2019 Top 100 Draft prospects list

May 3rd, 2019

A team hasn't taken a catcher with the first pick in a Draft since 2001, when the Twins selected hometown hero Joe Mauer. The last time a full-fledged backstop ranked as the best prospect in the Draft was way back in 1975, when Danny Goodwin went No. 1 overall for the second time in five years.

Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman entered 2019 as the consensus top prospect, and he has only strengthened his case this spring. The Most Outstanding Player at last year's College World Series, he checks all the boxes for tools (switch-hitter with the ability to hit for power and average, plus receiving and throwing ability), performance (he's batting .431/.576/.813 and leading NCAA Division I in on-base percentage, OPS and with 55 walks) and makeup.

The Orioles haven't tipped their hand as to what they'll do with the first choice on June 3, but other teams would be surprised if Baltimore opts for anyone besides Rutschman.

"Rutschman is the obvious 1-1 guy," an American League scouting director said, "and probably as good a 1-1 as we've had in five, six, seven years. He's by himself, and then it's Witt, Vaughn and Abrams closer together."

Along with Rutschman, Colleyville (Texas) Heritage HS shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., California first baseman Andrew Vaughn and Blessed Trinity Catholic HS (Roswell, Ga.) shortstop CJ Abrams have separated themselves from the rest of the Draft pack. There's a good chance that they'll be the first four selections in some order.

Witt and Abrams could surpass Tommy Bianco and Condredge Holloway (No. 3 and No. 4 overall in 1971) as the highest-drafted pair of high school shortstops ever. Witt is the son of longtime big league pitcher Bobby Witt -- the No. 3 overall pick in 1985 -- and has rare five-tool potential for his position. Abrams combines game-changing speed and advanced hitting ability.

"They’re a special pair at the top of the Draft," an AL scouting official said. "They’re the best pair of high school shortstops we’ve had since 2012 with Carlos Correa and Addison Russell, and 2011 with Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez, and they’re likely to go higher than both of those pairs. They also offer interesting stylistic differences in addition to dynamic, best-in-class tools."

Vaughn is special in his own way as well. While he's not quite matching the production of his 2018 sophomore season that won him the Golden Spikes Award, he's still batting .384/.535/.696 and is clearly the best offensive player in the Draft. He has elite feel for the barrel, effortless power to all fields and impeccable control of the strike zone.

"He’s one of those for-sure bats," a National League scouting director said. "There’s not a lot of projection -- it’s pretty close to being as good as it needs to be to be a good Major League hitter. He’s going to hit home runs, he’s going to slug, he’s going to hit for average. He’s probably more desirable in the American League, but any time you have the chance to draft a bat who is close to projecting as a Major League hitter the value is huge."

Position players will dominate the top of this Draft and most of the first round. JJ Bleday (Vanderbilt) and Riley Greene (Hagerty HS, Oviedo, Fla.) rank right with Abrams for some clubs, and fellow outfielders Hunter Bishop (Arizona State) and Corbin Carroll (Lakeside HS, Seattle) aren't far behind. UNLV's Bryson Stott leads an unusually deep crop of college shortstops, while Baylor's Shea Langeliers is one of the best defensive catchers of the last decade.

By contrast, the group of college arms worthy of first-round selections is the thinnest in recent memory. Texas Christian left-hander Nick Lodolo and West Virginia right-hander Alek Manoah are the best of the bunch at this point and will meet in what will be a heavily scouted showdown tonight.

A supplemental first-rounder by the Pirates out of a California high school three years ago, Lodolo has improved his slider, consistency and command this spring. Armed with a mid-90s fastball and a hard slider, Manoah is the hottest pitcher in college baseball, having permitted just one run in his last four starts while fanning 49 in 33 innings. Kentucky left-hander Zack Thompson and San Jacinto (Texas) right-hander Jackson Rutledge also could factor into the middle of the first round.

"This is the worst group of college arms I've seen in the first round in my 30 years of scouting," a NL front-office executive said. "It's so weak."

Right-hander Matthew Allan (Seminole HS, Sanford, Fla.) has ascended to the top of the prep pitching class on the strength of his mid-90s fastball and his quality control. The other high school arms who projected as potential first-rounders coming into the year -- righties Brennan Malone (IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.), Daniel Espino (Georgia Premier Academy, Statesboro, Ga.) and Jack Leiter (Delbarton School, Morristown, N.J.) -- have lived up to expectations.

Seven players who didn't make MLB Pipeline's Draft Top 50 in December now reside in first-round territory (the first 34 picks) on our new Top 100: Bishop, Rutledge, Cary-Grove HS (Cary, Ill.) right-hander Quinn Priester, Tulane third baseman Kody Hoese, Campbell righty Seth Johnson, Morgan Academy (Selma, Ala.) shortstop Gunnar Henderson and St. Thomas HS (Houston) righty Josh Wolf.