Since the calendar turned to 2017, the focus at MLBPipeline.com has shifted from the Top 100 Prospects to organization Top 30 Prospects lists to Spring Training reports on every farm system. After we wrap up our Grapefruit League coverage with the Pirates and Yankees on Monday, we'll spend much of
Since the calendar turned to 2017, the focus at MLBPipeline.com has shifted from the Top 100 Prospects to organization Top 30 Prospects lists to Spring Training reports on every farm system. After we wrap up our Grapefruit League coverage with the Pirates and Yankees on Monday, we'll spend much of the next two months delving into the Draft, which starts June 12 with the Twins making the No. 1 overall pick.
We'll expand our current Draft Top 50 Prospects to a Top 100 in April and a Top 200 in May, and we'll also have a slew of first-round projections and other coverage. I'm starting to get Draft fever just thinking about it, which is why there's a heavy Draft flavor to this week's MLBPipeline Inbox.
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A Louisville left-hander/first baseman, Brendan McKay entered the year ranked seventh on our Draft Top 50 and with no consensus as to whether he's better on the mound or at the plate. That question still hasn't been resolved as he has batted .466/.575/.741 with four homers in 19 games and has gone 4-0 with a 0.36 ERA and a 41/6 K/BB ratio in 25 innings through four starts. If the Draft were today, there's no way he would last until No. 7, and he'd strongly be in the mix to go No. 1.
McKay might be the best pure college hitter available, with fine control of the strike zone and emerging power. He also could be the first pitcher in the 2017 crop to reach the big leagues, as he has filled the zone while reaching 95 mph with his fastball while backing it up with a plus curveball. McKay also figures to improve as either a hitter or pitcher once he focuses on one role in pro ball.
It's harder to find quality left-handers than first basemen, so if I had to guess, I'd say it's slightly more likely that McKay will get selected as a pitcher. But that decision still is very much up in the air.
Most two-way studs have an obvious strength. This year's top prospect, Hunter Greene of Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks, Calif., is a gifted shortstop with power potential -- but his upside is clearly higher on the mound. The best comp for McKay might be John Olerud, a similar athlete who starred as a hitting savant and finesse lefty at Washington State, but Olerud definitely was going to be a position player as a pro.
As best as I can determine, the last Draft prospect who could have gone in the top 10 as both a hitter and a pitcher was John Van Benschoten. He led NCAA Division I with 31 homers in 2001 and most clubs preferred him as a right fielder, though the Pirates took him eighth overall as a right-hander. Trey Ball went No. 7 to the Red Sox in 2013 as a left-hander and the Padres would have considered him at No. 13 as an outfielder, though he was more of a consensus second-rounder as a position player.
Of all the players who didn't make our initial Draft Top 50, Austin Beck figures to be the highest pick in June. An outfielder from North Davidson High in Lexington, N.C., he tore the ACL and meniscus in his left knee last May and thus missed the summer showcase circuit and the World Wood Bat Association World Championship in October. He has impressed scouts this spring with his power potential, speed and center-field skills, though giving him three 70s on the 20-80 scouting scale might be a bit much.
Teams still are trying to figure out exactly how good Beck's bat is because they didn't get to see him against top competition last summer or fall. He's drawing interest from at least a couple of clubs who pick in the top 10, though he fits more in the back half of the first round for most. As intriguing as Beck is, the top choice among North Carolina high schoolers probably will be Whiteville (N.C.) left-hander MacKenzie Gore.
Florida right-hander Alex Faedo was our highest-ranked college pitcher on the Draft Top 50, checking in at No. 4. After working with a 92-95 mph fastball as a sophomore, he has sat around 90 mph this spring. Clubs don't seem terribly concerned, however, attributing the dropoff to missing fall practice after having arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees.
Faedo still projects as a top-10 choice and could be the first college arm taken if he regains his velocity, though at this point, both McKay and North Carolina right-hander J.B. Bukauskas would go ahead of him. Bukauskas would be my top college pitcher right now, as he has a mid-90s fastball, arguably the best slider in the Draft and an underrated changeup. He's also having a spectacular year (3-0, 1.09 ERA, 51/7 K/BB ratio in 33 innings) and has made strides with his control and delivery.
Though the Marlins' Brian Anderson didn't crack MLBPipeline's Top 10 Third Base Prospects list, he impressed me during Arizona Fall League play. He led the AFL with five homers and went deep again in the championship game, showing feel for imparting backspin on balls. Anderson is also a quality defender whose hands, range and arm all play well at the hot corner.
The 2016 Draft featured so many potential everyday players at third base that Rockies fourth-rounder Colton Welker got overlooked a bit. After helping Stoneman Douglas High (Parkland, Fla.) win the national high school championship, he hit .329/.366/.490 in the Rookie-level Pioneer League as an 18-year-old and reminded Colorado officials of a young Nolan Arenado.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.