On June 4, 12 months of scouting, home visits, meetings and planning will all come to fruition as all 30 teams build for the future via the Draft.
Scouting staffs are still criss-crossing the country, gathering as much information as possible to line up their Draft boards. MLB Pipeline's new Top 100 Draft Prospects list reflects the latest opinions of the scouting industry. It's based on talent and perceived ceiling, not where players are expected to be selected (that will come with several mock drafts in the coming weeks).
• 2018 Draft order | 2018 Draft: June 4-6 | All-time Draft picks
Coming into the spring, scouts were enthusiastically optimistic about the talent in this year's class. That's still the case, though it's a scout's job to be critical, and every spring scout will poke holes in any class. This year's crop appears to have more depth than elite talent at the top, with the prep set -- particularly pitching -- leading the way.
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"It's a high school dominant Draft," one National League scouting director said. "There are some good college players at the top of the Draft, though maybe not the star potential of some of the Drafts of the past."
MLB Pipeline's Top 10 Draft prospects
- Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn
- Carter Stewart, RHP, Eau Gallie HS (Melbourne, Fla.)
- Nick Madrigal, 2B/SS, Oregon State
- Matt Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge HS (Riverdale, Ariz.)
- Brady Singer, RHP, Florida
- Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida
- Travis Swaggerty, OF, South Alabama
- Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha (Wisc.) West HS
- Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech
- Jonathan India, 3B, Florida
Complete Top 100 list »
Even if the sentiment is that high schoolers lead the way this year, the split in the Top 100 is almost right down the middle, with 50 high schoolers, 49 college players and one from the junior college ranks. And that top 10 is decidedly college-heavy, with seven of the 10.
Florida, Oregon State, Stanford and TCU lead the way with three prospects apiece on the list, while Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri State, Oklahoma, Virginia and Wichita State each have a pair.
"There's one top-end talent, then some depth in the next couple of rounds," an American League scouting director said.
That one top-end talent is Mize, an Auburn right-hander who is a slam dunk choice to lead the Top 100. He has been the best performer in the country and has been the lone player to truly separate himself from the pack, though it remains to be seen if the Detroit Tigers will use the No. 1 pick in this year's Draft to take him.
"Mize has been top of the class," the NL scouting director said. "The big thing has been his ability to take the ball every Friday and compete like he deserves to be there."
While he hasn't quite run away and hid as much as Mize has, Florida high school right-hander Stewart has emerged as the best high school arm in the country, thanks largely to perhaps the best breaking ball in the entire class. At No. 3 is Madrigal, the top college bat in the country despite having missed a chunk of Oregon State's season with a broken wrist. Kelenic, from the Wisconsin high school ranks, is the top high school bat in the class, coming in at No. 8.
There's talent to be found in each of those four categories: college arms and bats, high school pitching and hitters.
Including Mize, there are three college pitchers in the top 10 and five in the top 20. While none have been as consistently dominant as Auburn's ace has been, there will be some good choices for teams picking near the top of the Draft.
Heading into the spring, Singer, Florida's Friday night starter, topped most lists. He began the year a little slowly, with his stuff not quite as sharp, which caused him to slide in some evaluations. But with Singer's stuff starting to bounce back of late and as good a resume as any in this class, it's hard to imagine teams waiting too long to get him off the board.
"He's good, he's big, strong and he's been durable," a scouting director said. "He's been the unwavering top performer in the SEC. We pick him apart, but there's a comfort level in knowing what you're getting whenever you take him."
McClanahan, from the University of South Florida, is the top college lefty in the class. He's drawn some loose comparisons to Chris Sale as a southpaw with arm strength and slightly unorthodox mechanics. McClanahan maintains a fastball that touches 97 mph and backs it up with a potentially plus changeup. Some see a potential reliever because of the arm action, but that's happened countless times with college arms from Sale to a guy like Max Scherzer.
"He's a college lefty with plus stuff, you just don't see that guy slide very far," the scouting director said. "The stuff is too good to be a bullpen guy. You know you're getting a big league pitcher you feel you can get there pretty quickly."
Every year, college hitters rise up the Draft board. Often seen as the safest bet among amateur prospects, players who produce start to float up. This year has certainly followed that script, and while this crop, led by Madrigal, is not seen as elite-level talent, there are five in the top 11.
"Those are the college bats that will fly off the board quickly," the NL scouting director said. "You look at past Drafts and hitters went high …These guys aren't in the class off Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Braun, but they've gone out and performed. That's why they're going where they're going."
Madrigal is the best pure hitter in the class. Travis Swaggerty is toolsy with a chance to play center at the next level. Joey Bart is a rare commodity: a college catcher who will stick behind the plate. Alec Bohm, at No. 11, is a potential power corner infield bat. But no one has improved his stock more than Florida infielder Jonathan India. He wasn't even on MLB Pipeline's Top 50 last fall, but is now at No. 10 because of how well he's performed for the Gators.
"If you had told me we'd be talking about Jonathan India where we're talking about him now, I wouldn't have believed it," a scouting director said. "Kudos to him, he's gone out and done it. He's matured. He's not swinging at pitches he can't hit, and he's not missing the ones he can."
High school arms
There was no doubt heading into the spring that this was the strength of the class, especially near the top. And it's still the case, with high school pitching taking up seven of the top 20 spots. Right behind Stewart is lefty Matt Liberatore, who has advanced pitchability and opened some eyes by touching 96-97 mph in a couple of early starts. Kumar Rocker, at No. 14, has held steady with his premium velocity. Ryan Weathers, David's son, gives teams another prep lefty to continue in the top 20 (No. 16). Cole Winn (No. 15) helped Orange Lutheran win the National High School invitational in March and has continued to pitch well all spring.
"All of those arms have secondary stuff to back it up, not just velocity," the NL scouting director said. "They have secondary pitches that are Major League out pitches, that's why we're talking about them at this level and not later in the Draft."
There would be even more if it hadn't been for the injury bug. A trio of prep right-handers -- Ethan Hankins, Mason Denaburg and Mike Vasil -- are still ranked No. 19-21, but all have had some kind of health-related concerns. Hankins is back pitching, but he had what was termed a minor shoulder problem that shut him down for a spell, and he has been a bit up-and-down as he's gotten stretched back out. Denaburg hasn't thrown in a while because of biceps tendinitis and Vasil walked off the mound holding his elbow in his last outing. All three could have been firmly in top 10 pick conversations if it weren't for the injury worry.
"A lot of them have been dropping like flies," a scouting director said. "Everyone wants them to be healthy and not pitch until they are, but as time goes by, more question marks arise as they come back if they're not competing as expected. So they're rated as question marks by us."
High school bats
This is the lightest group in this year's class, with only one top 10 hitter in Kelenic and three in the top 20. Arizona area third baseman Nolan Gorman had a huge summer to jump way up lists, but he hasn't been able to dominate as consistently this spring and getting pitched around regularly hasn't helped. Connor Scott from Florida is the other top 20 player, and while he's an outfielder with plus speed, he's missed time with a hamstring issue.
Teams at the top of the Draft usually look for that All-Star caliber talent from the high school hitter set. Think about guys like Justin Upton or, most recently, Royce Lewis. That doesn't mean teams that are trying to decide between a prep hitter over a prep pitcher, considered the riskiest play in the Draft, won't go with the bat.
"They're not those elite, definitely-going-to-hit bats we've seen in the past, but they all have ability," the NL scouting director said, adding Triston Casas (No. 25) to his list of favorite high school hitters. "They're solid. The high school hitter is going to take precedence over the high school pitcher, by and large."