The 2019 MLB Draft begins tonight. Following draft prospects over the years is perhaps one of my favorite hobbies in my free time. I study high school and college prospects and often follow them into the minors. I can often rattle off quite a bit of detail about almost any player projected to be selected in the first couple rounds. In contrast, my attention to the majors is quite diminished. I keep up with the stats and read MLB’s tweets, but my real interest lies in the prospects. For a few years, I’ve had friends involved in the draft process. My high school teammate Evan Alexander was drafted in the 19th round in 2016 (to the Yankees), my friend Zach Deloach was a projected top 200 pick but ended up at Texas A&M (2017 draft year), and my former teammate Mason Englert was drafted in the 4th round last summer. This year, I don’t know anyone that will be selected, but the overall number two pick is most likely going to be a shortstop from just twenty minutes from my house — Bobby Witt Jr. In light of spending over a year reading about the prospects available in this year’s draft, here’s my top 10… with a little bit of analysis.
- Adley Rutschman: The Oregon State catcher has been the projected first pick since the very first articles about this year’s draft appeared. He’s got quite the bat — a .419 AVG and .580 OBP this year. While his defense is behind Shea Langeliers (Baylor’s catcher), it’s still great, and MLB Pipeline recently wrote about how he’s the best number one pick since Bryce Harper in 2010. There’s a little bit of “buzz” about Vaughn or Bleday going here, but I don’t see the Orioles passing on Rutschman.
- Bobby Witt Jr.: The high school shortstop who leads a team that features six D1 commits, Witt Jr. throws up to 96 mph off the mound but is even more of a talent with his glove and bat. He was recently given the Gatorade National Player of the Year award, and MLB Pipeline wrote that he is the best shortstop prospect since Alex Rodriguez. Witt Jr.’s swing is fluid and produces easy power, and his speed, arm, and glove point to a long-term shortstop.
- Andrew Vaughn: There seems to be some talk about C.J. Abrams being selected here, but I’m not as sold on Abrams as others are, and Vaughn has hit just under .400 with 38 HR over the past two seasons for California. He’s been the typical number three prospect discussed by scouts and analysts, and I don’t see him falling.
- J.J. Bleday: This pick seems like a fairly solid lock unless, quite unlikely, Rustchman or Witt Jr. fell. If Vaughn was not the third pick, it seems as though the Tigers would select him with the fifth overall pick. Bleday has been a great hitter for Vanderbilt with lots of home runs and a good average.
- Riley Greene: Because both of my parents are from Michigan, the Tigers are my favorite team, and I would love for them to select Greene with this pick. They have drafted pitchers with their four last first round picks (Burrows, Manning, Faedo, Mize), and lots of their top prospects are pitchers. Greene is a pure hitter, and his double to deep LCF in the Perfect Game All-American Game last summer was impressive.
- C.J. Abrams: While Abrams is certainly within this first tier of picks — the six position players — and it is definitely possible for him to be picked as high as number three, he’s the sixth best option in my opinion. Still, he has a great bat, as well as quickness and speed that would play in the middle infield or CF.
- Nick Lodolo: Finally, a pitcher. I was shocked when Lodolo passed on being a first round selection a few years ago — but I guess it worked out in his favor. Tall, still projectable, and a low-to-mid 90s fastball. What’s not to like?
- Brett Baty: My picks have been conventional, until now. Baty is usually in mock drafts between pick 14 and 28. However, there’s a little talk about Baty going earlier, with the given team making a deal to have extra money to spend in later rounds. Some don’t like that Baty is 19 1/2 years old already, out of high school. But he can swing — for both average and power. If the Rangers pulled this move, they wouldn’t just be saving money. Baty could emerge as one of the best hitters that is selected in this year’s draft.
- Hunter Bishop: I haven’t seen a projection in awhile with Bishop’s name here at number nine with the Braves. But if he doesn’t go to the Rangers, as he probably will, he may be the best option available. His power potential is high, and his spring has been very impressive. Corbin Carroll, Jackson Rutledge, and Shea Langeliers are also good options at this spot.
- Jackson Rutledge: Extremely tall and with a mid-to-upper 90s fastball, Rutledge may very well go eighth or ninth tonight. Bryson Stott and Josh Jung would also be great picks with number ten. I saw Jung play twice this year in-person and loved his swing. Rutledge could make some adjustments, too — with professional pitching coaches and great stuff with which to work, he could go a long way.
I’m currently writing from South Padre Island, where I arrived yesterday around lunchtime. I got in after a crazy night. My Saturday evening flight to Dallas from San Francisco was diverted to Austin due to the weather in Dallas, and we were stuck in Austin for the night (after sitting on the plane on the runway for two hours while American figured things out). My dad and I sat on the floor in the Austin airport for hours and finally found out we would be going back to Dallas later yesterday or today. But I had a 7am flight to catch to McAllen to join Abegale’s family, and who wants to wait that long to go home? So, after changing my 7am flight to a 1pm and as soon as National opened in the morning, my dad and I rented a car and drove to DFW. We surprising got there forty minutes before a 9am flight to McAllen left, and I sped through security and got my plane ticket changed. So I made it! My only takeaway after yesterday was something I already knew: while I can do it, going over 24 hours without sleep is not for me.
Here’s to the draft, and MLB Network’s Preview for it begins in just under one hour.