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Inbox: Top 50 Draft Prospects questions

December 7, 2018

On Wednesday, we launched our 2019 Draft Top 50 list, followed by Jim Callis and I answering a ton of questions on Twitter.That clearly wasn't enough, as my call for additional Draft-related queries resulted in several more excellent topics for conversation, including the trio of questions answered below.

On Wednesday, we launched our 2019 Draft Top 50 list, followed by Jim Callis and I answering a ton of questions on Twitter.
That clearly wasn't enough, as my call for additional Draft-related queries resulted in several more excellent topics for conversation, including the trio of questions answered below.

While we didn't officially line up the next group beyond the Top 50, we did get significant feedback on a number of players that will help inform me in putting together a 51-55 list. Jim Callis and I did a lot of shuffling as we got feedback from scouts and there are some players who did just narrowly miss. If I were to throw together the next five, it might look like this:
Quinn Priester, RHP, Cary-Grove HS (Ill.)
Wil Dalton, OF, Florida
Dominic Fletcher, OF, Arkansas
Jack Kochanowicz, RHP, Harriton HS (Pa.)
Anthony Volpe, SS, Delbarton HS (NJ)
These could probably be ordered any which way, though we unofficially were calling Priester No. 51. He has tons of projection to go along with a good fastball and curveball combination. Dalton was singled out by multiple scouts as the type of college performer who could make a huge leap, maybe into first-round consideration, with a strong junior season with the Gators. Fletcher is another college bat, one without a ton of projection but has put up double-digit home run totals in each of his first two seasons of pro ball. Kochanowicz is a 6-foot-6 right-hander from a Northeast state who is up to 92 mph with his fastball and has a ton of projection. Volpe is Jack Leiter's teammate and plays the game the right way, getting high praise for his makeup and his ability to play above his solid tools.

We don't typically do a top tools story with this Top 50, but at the bottom of the story about the rankings, there is a list of the top grades per tool. I can elaborate a bit on them now.
Hitters
Hit: There are four players with a 60 hit tool. The two college guys are Adley Rutschman at Oregon State and Andrew Vaughn at Cal. The two high school bats are Riley Greene in Florida and Corbin Carroll in the Seattle area. You could argue over who is the best of this group, but I'll give the nod to Vaughn because of his collegiate track record.
Power: Vaughn and high schooler Rece Hinds in Florida got the two 60 power grades. There's no question in my mind that Hinds has the most raw power in the Draft. That's at least a 70, with the only question being if he'll hit enough to tap into it consistently.
Run: Two prepsters, CJ Abrams in Georgia and Jerrion Ealy in Mississippi, got 75 grades on their speed. I'd pay good money to watch the two of them race.
Arm: Baylor catcher Shea Langeliers has an absolute cannon behind the plate, giving him the lone 70 grade in the Top 50.
Field: Five total players got a 60 grade here, including Rutschman and Langeliers. UCLA first baseman Mike Toglia is the only college player to get the grade, while high school shortstops Bobby Witt (Texas) and Nasim Nunez (Georgia) also received 60s. I think I'd give a tiny edge to Nunez, thought it might be because his glove is his carrying tool.
Pitchers
Fastball: Two high schoolers, Brennan Malone, now at IMG Academy in Florida, and Daniel Espino in Georgia, have a 70 fastball grade. So does Oregon right-hander Ryne Nelson. Nelson's still new to pitching, so there's upside for him as well. Espino has reached triple digits already, so he has the best now fastball velocity-wise, though Malone and Nelson could have true 80 heaters when all is said and done.
Curveball: If Carter Stewart, who the Braves took No. 8 overall in last year's Draft but didn't sign because of concerns about a wrist issue, is healthy, his 65 curveball is by far the best in the class. He likely is heading to junior college in Florida so he can re-enter the Draft.
Slider: Again, only one candidate and it's Duke lefty Graeme Stinson. His 65 slider is thrown in the mid-80s and has nasty two-plane break.
Changeup: There aren't a ton of great changeups in this group. TCU lefty Nick Lodolo's is the best, with a 55 grade, but he sells it well and throws it with good movement.
Control: Al Leiter's kid, Jack, gets a 55 for his control now, but if you told me the New Jersey high school right-hander would get to plus in the future, I'd believe it. That kid really knows how to pitch.

I tend to stay away from questions about specific teams and what they're going to do this far removed from the Draft, but I figured I could use this to briefly discuss organizational philosophy regarding the Draft and how it does (or doesn't) dovetail into what they're doing in other areas.
So it seems that the Mariners are hitting a reset button and are trying to restock. There's a lot of work to do on the farm system for sure, and they've added some nice pieces, including the top three players currently on their Top 30 list. That trio alone shows that Jerry Dipoto and company aren't looking for a quick fix. Justus Sheffield is ready to contribute now, Justin Dunn is at the upper levels and Jarred Kelenic is just getting started. And, truth be told, though the system is improved, there are still needs at all levels in terms of depth.
That brings us back to the Draft. The Mariners pick 20th overall in 2019. At this point, it is virtually impossible to know what will be available there. It's clear there are more bats than arms, but maybe that means the best pitchers will be available. In terms of high school vs. college? Same issue. The best college bats will be gone, but there is depth there, so there could be some good ones. High school pitching will likely be there because they tend to shift downwards as teams become risk averse.
The point I'm trying to make is that the Mariners should take whoever the best available player is, regardless of college or high school. I'd make that argument for any team in the first round, mind you, but because the organization is trying to address the system top to bottom, I believe targeting one group over the other would be a mistake. That said, the Mariners have gone the college route in the first round in six of the last seven Drafts.

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