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Inbox: Draft, Ohtani, former Braves prospects

December 7, 2017

The offseason can't keep up at this pace, right?There's so much to talk about, and for you to ask questions about, on the prospect front, and we haven't even gotten to the Winter Meetings yet. From our new Top 50 Draft prospects list to Shohei Ohtani and former Braves prospects

The offseason can't keep up at this pace, right?
There's so much to talk about, and for you to ask questions about, on the prospect front, and we haven't even gotten to the Winter Meetings yet. From our new Top 50 Draft prospects list to Shohei Ohtani and former Braves prospects signing news, the list of topics is robust, for sure.
This week's Pipeline Inbox is thus a smorgasbord of these storylines. We've got some Draft, some Ohtani and some Maitan in the buffet for your consideration. Enjoy!
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Keeping in mind that any Draft projection now is sheer conjecture, it is always fun to talk about who could be the No. 1 pick. I tackled this Brady Singer vs. Ethan Hankins question in the video above.

Determining ceiling and floor for players is somewhat subjective. But there are some players on this list who have incredibly high ceilings, or upside potential, while there are others with a high floor, or a stronger likelihood of reaching their potential, even if their ceiling isn't as high. I'm thinking you meant highest ceiling and highest floor, so I've decided to give you high-ceiling/high-floor choices for pitchers and hitters separately.
When you're thinking about ceiling among pitchers, looking for the projectable high-school arm makes the most sense. You don't have to go further than the No. 2 guy on the list, Hankins. He's already armed with the best fastball in the Top 50, touching the upper-90s with electric life. His other stuff is behind, but his hard curve was better than expected over the summer and he has a slider to go along with a changeup that's a tick above-average. The upside comes in the potential for his secondary offerings to continue to improve, especially with the possibility of added strength to his 6-foot-6 frame. He has the chance to be a top-of-the-rotation type starter.

As for floor, the easy answer would be Brady Singer, who is No. 1 on the list. And we could leave it at that, though he also has a pretty high ceiling. But instead, take a look at Matt Liberatore's floor. Yes, he's a high schooler, so you would think ceiling instead of floor, and he does have upside potential. But he is so advanced on the mound, has such a good feel for all of his stuff, that the odds of him at least being a mid-rotation starter are very good (and I think he has the upside to be more than that).
On the offensive side of things, Nick Madrigal easily has the highest floor. Every scout I've talked to about him not only thinks he's going to hit, but that he's going to hit well, at the big league level. I talked to a scouting director recently who was very confident Madrigal would hit his way to the big leagues in just a year. He's not without other tools, he can run really well, he defends well at second base and might be able to stick at short and has more extra-base pop than you'd think given his 5-foot-7 frame. But his ability to control an at-bat, that's what makes scouts feel he's as close to a sure thing big leaguer as there is in the class.

Ceiling-wise, a strong case can be made for Nander De Sedas. While I might not be quite ready to jump on the Francisco Lindor comp bandwagon (he goes to the same high school Lindor attended), he does have the chance to be that kind of player eventually. He doesn't defend as well as Lindor did in high school, but he does have more present power than his predecessor did at the same time. I'd also keep an eye on Joe Gray Jr., who might have the most exciting set of raw tools in the class.

Every time I think I've had enough Ohtani talk, I realize that's not true. And I might not ever get sick of it. For me, this is one of the most fascinating developments in baseball in a long, long time, and I can't wait to see what he can do in the big leagues in 2018 (not to mention where he's going to sign!).
We've already put Ohtani at the top of our Top 30 international prospects list and will place him on all appropriate lists once he signs with a team. I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying that the two-way phenom will be very, very high on the Top 100 when the time comes. But that's not the question at hand. Looking at Ohtani as two different players, as a pitcher, then separately as a hitter, is an interesting exercise.

As a pitcher, Ohtani has an 80 fastball on the 20-to-80 scouting scale and two pitches, his slider and his splitter, that get 65 grades. That's three plus pitches, along with an average changeup, he can throw for strikes. His overall grade of 70 as a pitcher kind of tells you what you need to know. We don't have a single player of any kind on our top 100 with that high of an overall grade. Now, we haven't lined up our new Top 100 for 2018 yet and haven't tweaked grades accordingly. There will undoubtedly be spirited discussion over who the No. 1 overall prospect should be on the new list, with Ohtani, Ronald Acuna and Vlad Guerrero Jr. among those who will be debated.
Most scouts say they do like Ohtani better as a pitcher than a hitter, though some teams prefer him as a hitter. Even those who like the arm think the bat is also pretty special. Looking at the offensive tools alone (50 hit, 65 power, 65 speed) puts him in elite company. Throw in that 80 arm from the outfield and perhaps the overall 60 he has is a little light, especially if you're considering what he might do if he was only hitting and wasn't splitting his focus. We currently have Acuna No. 5 overall, though that will undoubtedly change, right behind Eloy Jimenez. I'd think Ohtani belongs right behind there as an outfielder, somewhere in the 6-10 range.

Maitan, who has a $2.2 million deal with the Angels, according to sources, is currently No. 38 on our Top 100 list. I will freely admit that ranking is likely too high and is based on where we put him during our re-rank in July. Like you, I have seen many things about how scouts aren't as high on him, how his star has faded, how he doesn't belong on a Top 100 list.
We haven't begun to line up our Top 100 for 2018 just yet, so I can't say for certain where Maitan will end up, or if he'll fall off the list entirely. But I do think that maybe people are abandoning ship a tad too early. Maitan went from being the next Jose Cabrera to being a bust in the span of one summer. I'm not saying that his lackluster play should be ignored, nor should concerns about his effort or his conditioning. But let's remember he is just 17 years old and was making his pro debut while settling into the United States for the first time. Did the skills that made him such an exciting player just a year ago suddenly vanish? I'm willing to take a wait-and-see approach. If I had to decide right this minute, I'd say he still belongs in the Top 100, but closer to the bottom third of the list.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.