(Photo via The 3rd Man In website, seen here)
Mock Draft composed by Richard Birfer and Kurt Ascetta
The day is finally here! The 2018 MLB Draft is tonight!
As hundreds of young prospects sit in both anticipation and excitement hoping to hear their names called over the next couple days, the baseball world will have its eyes glued to the MLB Network with the first two rounds only a few hours away.
Over the next 48 hours, approximately 1,200 prospects will be drafted across 30 MLB teams. Some will choose to sign and start their professional careers, while other prospects will choose the collegiate route for further development. Unlike drafts in other sports, the MLB Draft is not simply about talent, but sign-ability as well and when the financial aspect comes into play, anything can happen over the next couple of days.
For the Collegiate Baseball Scouting Network, in many ways, this is the culmination of one season and the beginning of the next. With that being said, a season will not be complete without an official first round MLB mock draft. Our very own newly-promoted Scouting Directors Kurt Ascetta and Richard Birfer have taken the time to put together how they think the first round of the MLB Draft will play out, taking not only talent, but both sign-ability and draft trends of the past few years for each team into account.
With high school prep arms being one of the main talking points surrounding the draft heading into tonight, in Kurt’s mind, it will be the University of Arizona commit Matthew Liberatore to be the first of the pack to come off the board.
“Liberatore is the most polished prep pitcher in this class,” says the western region’s Scouting Director, who has watched Liberatore pitch live on a few occasions. “Mechanics, pitch-ability, intangibles are all there, in addition to a fastball that’s tough to lift and a big, slow curveball.”
Remaining on the topic of high school players, prep prospects have a heavy presence in Kurt’s first round mock board, with 15 high schoolers projected to be selected within the initial 30 picks.
“This high school class is very talented, especially on the pitching side,” Explains Kurt. “There’s a lot of reasons why teams might be willing to take on the risk of HS players: 1) Data driven feedback and player development and 2) Teams wanting to stock pile on talent to build core to win in four to five years.
“This year is probably a bit of an outlier, but we will end up seeing how many of these first round prep player actually sign with the teams that pick them.”
If there is a steal within the first round, for the recent graduate of Arizona State University, it is Oklahoma outfielder Kyler Murray.
“Murray could be the steal of the draft if he signs,” Kurt believes. “Probably the best athlete in the entire draft, could easily be a Byron Buxton-type defender with his speed, and I think could be a better overall hitter than Buxton as well.”
Not surprisingly, Auburn ace Casey Mize as the first overall pick has become all but a forgone conclusion, but once the first name is taken off the board, the real fun will most definitely begin.
Similar to our western region Scouting Director, Richard perceives that the Philadelphia Phillies will be the first team to gamble on a high school prospect in this year’s draft, albeit on a position player. Not widely seen in game, Wisconsin-native Jarred Kelenic has made a name for himself on the showcase circuit showing a plethora of plus tools across the board.
“Kelenic has the potential to become a very special player on the next level,” admits the eastern region Scouting Director. “Currently his arm is his best tool, but he has one of the more compact and picture-perfect swings in the entire draft, with an approach far more advanced than most players of his age. He’s got some wheels and if you buy into his power potential, going high on the Kelenic is a no-brainer.”
While prep players remain prevalent on Richard’s mock draft as well, his projections for college players seems most interesting. Primarily catcher Joey Bart going ahead of Wichita State’s Alec Bohm and Oregon State’s Nick Madrigal at number two to the San Francisco Giants.
“I think Bart is a can’t-miss catching prospect,” says Richard. “He has continued to improve his game behind the plate at Georgia Tech. He’s a great catch-and-throw guy with a durable frame, can gotten opportunities to call his own game, and has a sweet stroke from the right side with a plenty of raw pop.”
As previously mentioned, tonight will be a big day for high school prep arms, but aside from the consensus first overall pick Mize, Florida right-hander Brady Singer has been an interesting collegiate pitcher who at one point was believed to be destined to hear his name called at the commencement of this year’s draft. Nevertheless, Singer remains a projected top-10 pick on many mock boards, but Richard believes that Singer’s violent delivery may make him a high-risk, high-reward talent.
“If you take a closer look at his delivery, there is a lot of early trunk rotation which occurs prior to front foot strike simply because of how early he opens his lead leg,” explains Richard, who is currently a Masters Candidate, studying biomechanics and ergonomics at Brock University in southwestern Ontario. “Because of this, you see him tucking his glove to his side early and his arm drags through as it is stuck in the back. The wear-and-tear on his arm and shoulder will be a definite concern, but if he does remain healthy – and hopefully he does – he has the stuff to become a dominant, front-of-the-line starting pitcher.
“It’s an electric arm. Lots of late life on his fastball, which sits 95-96 mph, his slider works very off his fastball and has a lot of sharp bite, and he is continuing to develop a changeup as his third pitch which projects to be an average offering on the level.”
The volatility of a high-upside prospect like a Brady Singer is what the MLB Draft really is all about – it’s a crapshoot – a game played by 30 teams hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.
But isn’t that what makes the MLB Draft one of the most exciting times of the baseball calendar?