Podcast: Top 50 Draft Prospects

December 8th, 2017

The following is an excerpt from this week's Pipeline Podcast, in which Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo discuss the recently unveiled Top 50 Draft Prospects list. To listen to the show in its entirety, go to the MLB Pipeline Podcast page.

Tim McMaster: Jonathan, you wrote the overall piece kind of introducing this new top 50, so I'll start with you. It's a strong class, right? I think that's the place to start is that when you look at draft classes, this is a good one.

Jonathan Mayo: It is a good one. Most people feel that it is as strong of a class, as strong as any of them since 2011. 2011 was kind of insane. You know, so to even put it in the same conversation, shows you what evaluators think of the class, at least as of right now. You know, then we'll have to see what happens in the spring in terms of guys separating themselves. But you know, in talking to some people about the class in general, what really stood out is that there's a little bit of everything. You know, you've got college pitching right at the top, there's a lot of really good high school pitching, a couple tiers of it, some high school bats. And then I think what, to me anyway, that makes it more impressive or deeper anyway is that there are actually some college bats that are good. I feels like most often, especially at this point in time, it's really light on college bats and we've talked about this before and the industry has done a good job of signing position players out of high school, so there aren't as many good college players, and while we don't have a college player in the top 10 right now, we have five of them in the 11-20 range and I could see a whole bunch of them moving into the top 10 in the spring if they perform as hoped. So to me, that's kind of the added thing that sets this class apart, at least compared to the last few.

McMaster: Jim, obviously things can change and they always do change. How much do you expect the real cream of the crop in this class, where you guys have it right now, do you feel like these top guys that we're going to get into a little bit more specifically, do you feel like they have staying power to stay where they are?

Jim Callis: Yeah, I mean, I think the changes are somewhat random. I don't know if we can project one year to the next. You know, like, "Oh, these guys are going to stay here." I'm looking at last year's list and coming into the year we had Hunter Greene No. 1 and he stayed there. Jeren Kendall was No. 2 and he slid a little bit because of questions about his bat. Royce Lewis was No. 3 and went No. 1 overall. Alex Faedo was four and he slid because of questions about his velocity. Kyle Wright was No. 5 and that's exactly where he went. I think, you know in terms of guys staying at the top of the list from December into June, a lot of it has to do with how healthy they are. We've got three pitchers at the top of this list, and I would think that [they'd stay], provided they all stay healthy. Brady Singer's combined stuff and polish, I would expect him to go out and have a great year with the Florida Gators again after winning a national championship. Ethan Hankins, you know if he continues to make progress with his breaking ball, that's the only real question with him. You know, third guy on the list, Matt Liberatore, a high school pitcher from Arizona, is extremely polished, so I don't know what will go wrong with him. Maybe the position players might change a little bit depending on who comes out and hits or doesn't hit in the spring, but I think it's a pretty stable group.

McMaster: Jonathan you mentioned how strong it is as a group, but what's the strongest position in this class right now?

Mayo: You could make a serious argument, I mean, there's a lot of pitching up top. I think the high school pitching, and there's a lot of good college arms too. I'll say I always like looking at the high school arms. Now, that's the one group that can be volatile. Guys who we have at the top could not perform, you know, Jim mentioned Ethan Hankins, let's say his breaking ball doesn't continue to come, you know I could see him maybe not being a top two or three guy. But I don't think he'd fall that far. By that same token, there are some guys in that second tier who are a little bit further down, Cole Wilcox, Mason Denaburg, Carter Stewart, these are all sort of projectable high school arms all of whom who could make a serious move up to the upper echelons and be one of the top high school guys. But there's a nice hefty robust group of high school pitching all throughout this Top 50 and that's the group, like I said, they could take huge steps forward or they could not perform as well in the spring and they'll fall into the sort of top second round or the off-to-college area. So we'll have to wait and see on them, but there's a lot of them to keep an eye on.