No Draft season is complete without a discussion of tools. It is, after all, what scouts are looking at when evaluating players at the plate, in the field and on the mound. And of course, there’s that intangible sixth tool of makeup that comes into play.
Looking at how the Class of 2019 breaks down, it makes it plain to see why most feel Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman is at the top of the Draft board. While he only lands atop the list in one tool, he deserves consideration in three others. He’s even a better runner than most catchers, but that doesn’t land him on the best speed list.
Best hitter: Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State
After hitting .408/.505/.628 with 53 walks and 40 strikeouts as a sophomore, Rutschman has somehow been even better as a junior. The Beavers backstop has a gaudy .419/.580/.765 line with 73 walks and just 37 strikeouts this spring. He doesn’t swing at bad pitches, doesn’t miss good ones and doesn’t sell out for power.
Also in the running: Andrew Vaughn, 1B, Cal; Riley Greene, OF, Hagerty HS (Fla.); Corbin Carroll, OF, Lakeside HS (Wash.); Bryson Stott, SS, UNLV; JJ Bleday, OF, Vanderbilt; Brett Baty, 3B, Lake Travis HS (Tex.)
Best power: Andrew Vaughn, 1B, Cal
There are several viable candidates here, especially among the college set. That includes the aforementioned Rutschman and Vanderbilt’s JJ Bleday, the nation’s leader in home runs. But Vaughn’s track record of home run pop, with 12 homers as a freshman, 23 in his Golden Spikes Award-winning sophomore season and 15 more this year, gives him the edge.
Also in the running: JJ Bleday, OF, Vanderbilt; Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State; Hunter Bishop, OF, Arizona State; Rece Hinds, 3B, IMG Academy (Fla.); Michael Toglia, OF, UCLA; Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Colleyville Heritage HS (Tex.); Brett Baty, 3B, Lake Travis HS (Tex.)
Fastest runner: James Beard, OF, Loyd Star HS (Miss.)
Some scouts feel Beard might even be faster than Billy Hamilton, who coincidentally came out of the Mississippi high school ranks, just like Beard will. Beard ran a 6.21 60-yard dash at a Prospect Development Pipeline event last June.
Also in the running: Greg Jones, SS, UNC Wilmington; CJ Abrams, Blessed Trinity Catholic HS (Ga.); Jerrion Ealy, OF, Jackson Prep (Miss.); Connor Walsh, SS, Niceville HS (Fla.); Dasan Brown, OF, Abbey Park HS (Ont.); Corbin Carroll, OF, Lakeside HS (Wash.); Zach Watson, OF, LSU
Strongest arm: Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor
Baylor’s catcher has an absolute cannon for an arm. He has a quick release (1.7-second pop times) and it’s very accurate. Langeliers threw out 70 percent of potential basestealers in 2018 and was up over 55 percent this year.
Also in the running: Ryan Kreidler, SS/3B, UCLA; Matt Wallner, OF, Southern Miss; Yordys Valdes, SS, McArthur HS (Fla.); Cooper Johnson, C, Mississippi
Best defender: Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor
He’s not just an arm back there. He’s an outstanding receiver who is very agile and athletic behind the plate. He won a Rawlings/ABCA Gold Glove Award in 2018 as the best defensive catcher in baseball and should be very much in the running for another this season.
Also in the running: Nasim Nunez, SS, Collins Hill HS (Ga.); Yordys Valdes, SS, McArthur HS (Fla.); Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Colleyville Heritage HS (Tex.); Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State; Drew Millas, C, Missouri State
Best fastball: Daniel Espino, RHP, Georgia Premier Academy
While the LSU commit usually works in the 94- to 97-mph range, he consistently touches higher than that and has reached triple digits in the past. He can blow his heater by hitters and his four-seamer has good riding action to it. He also throws a nasty two-seamer with heavy sink.
Also in the running: Ryan Jensen, RHP, Fresno State; Jackson Rutledge, RHP, San Jacinto JC; Andrew Schultz, RHP, Tennessee; Ryne Nelson, RHP, Oregon; Jacob Wallace, RHP, UConn; Alek Manoah, RHP, West Virginia
Best curveball: Matthew Allan, RHP, Seminole HS (Fla.)
There are not a lot of premium curveballs in the class, especially with Carter Stewart no longer eligible, but Allan’s is a plus pitch for sure. It’s a true power breaking ball that he can land for strikes consistently, using it to miss a ton of bats, both during his high school season and against top competition on the summer showcase circuit.
Also in the running: Quinn Priester, RHP, Cary-Grove HS (Ill.); Josh Wolf, RHP, St. Thomas HS (Tex.)
Best slider: Jackson Rutledge, RHP, San Jacinto JC
Rutledge throws both a slider and a curveball, but it’s his upper-80s power slider that is truly a wipeout pitch. It has good depth and is a big reason why he’s managed to strike out better than 14.5 per nine innings this year at San Jacinto.
Also in the running: Graeme Stinson, LHP, Duke; Daniel Espino, RHP, Georgia Premier Academy; Brennan Malone, RHP, IMG Academy; J.J. Goss, Cypress Ranch HS (Tex.); Will Rigney, RHP, Midway HS (Tex.)
Best changeup: Ryan Pepiot, RHP, Butler
While perhaps some of the high schoolers mentioned below eventually will develop a plus changeup in time (they often don’t need to throw it much at their current level), Pepiot’s offspeed stuff is plus right now. It’s a low-80s changeup with fade that he sells with deceptive arm speed.
Also in the running: Nick Lodolo, LHP, TCU; Hunter Barco, LHP, The Bolles School (Fla.); Matthew Allan, RHP, Seminole HS (Fla.); Ethan Small, LHP, Mississippi State; Ryan Garcia, RHP, UCLA; Evan Fitterer, RHP, Aliso Niguel HS (Calif.); Ricky DeVito, RHP, Seton Hall
Best control: George Kirby, RHP, Elon
Kirby shows the ability to throw all four of his pitches for strikes, even if he relies on his fastball with Elon. He has walked just six (while striking out 107) over 88 1/3 innings of work as a junior.
Also in the running: Nick Lodolo, LHP, Texas Christian; Ryan Garcia, RHP, UCLA; Avery Short, LHP, Southport HS (Ind.); Matthew Allan, RHP, Seminole HS (Fla.); Jack Leiter, RHP, Delbarton Prep (N.J.); John Doxakis, RHP, Texas A&M; Ben Brecht, LHP, Santa Barbara
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.