2018 Top MLB Draft Prospects for Fantasy, April 2018
The 2018 MLB Draft is less than two months away. In late March, several top high school players competed in the USA Baseball National High School Invitational (NHSI). In addition, the college baseball season is now over the halfway point. As such, it is time for a sneak peek at the 2018 draft class and the top-20 fantasy prospects.
2018 Top MLB Draft Prospects for Fantasy
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1. Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn
Entering the 2018 season, concerns persisted regarding the health of Casey Mize. Last year, he missed time due to a tired arm and a flexor strain in his forearm. Thus far, Mize put those health concerns to rest. Arguably, no player has performed better than Mize this year. On the year, he limited opponents to just four walks while striking out 77. Oh, and on March 9th, Mize threw the first no-hitter for Auburn in sixteen years.
Mize is a command and control artist with an excellent repertoire. Although he sports a plus, mid-90s fastball, his best pitch is an elite, upper-80s split-finger changeup. In addition, Mize throws a mid-80s slider with 11-to-5 slurve movement and a new cutter. Most importantly, he is able to consistently locate all four pitches within the zone.
2. Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State
Forming Wichita State’s Bash Brothers 2.0 with Greyson Jenista (below), Alec Bohm is one of the most dangerous hitters in college baseball. His strong 6’5″ frame generates massive 70-grade raw power. This year, Bohm has built upon his impressive performance from the Cape Cod League last summer, demonstrating improved plate discipline and a more refined approach at the plate. Now, his hit tool projects to 50 or 55 (previously, 45 or 50), while his power projects to plus or more.
Meanwhile, observers believe Bohm can stick at third base. Although he struggled at times this year (.903 fielding percentage), he has a strong arm and passable athleticism. If third base does not work out, corner outfield or first base are reasonable fallback options.
3. Brady Singer, RHP, Florida
At the beginning of the season, Brady Singer was an early favorite as the first overall pick in the MLB Draft. Since then, Mize significantly elevated his draft status with a dominant campaign. Meanwhile, although Singer performed well, he fell behind Mize (and others).
Even though Singer may not even be a top 5 pick at this point, he carries tremendous fantasy upside. With a tall and lean frame, he remains projectable and already brings consistent mid-90s heat. Singer supports his plus fastball with a wipeout slider and a tumbling changeup. All three pitches project to above-average or plus.
The most concerning element of Singer’s game is his delivery. He utilizes a quick, high energy motion and a low, three-quarters arm slot. Although this creates significant run on his fastball, it also puts a lot of strain on his arm and negates much of his leverage.
4. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha West HS
Unlike other high school draft prospects, Jarred Kelenic has not participated in any of the high profile spring tournaments. Hailing from Wisconsin, he is currently in Florida, playing for a travel team to gain exposure. Nevertheless, over the past month, momentum is building for Kelenic as the first overall pick.
Despite his lack of recent coverage, Kelenic still resonates with scouts, following tremendous performances for Team USA the past two summers. A budding five-tool player, he exhibits plus speed and potentially plus hit and power tools.
5. Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida
Armed with possibly the best fastball in the draft, Shane McClanahan is a likely top 10 pick. His fastball regularly sits in the mid-90s, touching 99 mph, from the left side. Further, McClanahan throws a plus, mid-80s changeup with deceptive arm speed and tumbling action. The progression of his low-80s slider – now, an average or better offering – provides him with three legitimate weapons. Moving forward, McClanahan needs to improve his command and control, which wavers at times. On the year, he has issued too many walks (24 walks in 47 1/3 inning, or 4.56 BB/9).
6. Travis Swaggerty, OF, South Alabama
Following an electric performance for Team USA last summer, Travis Swaggerty entered the season squarely in the first round conversation. Other than a brief slump in March, his performance this year cemented his status as a top pick. Swaggerty is a patient, professional hitter with plus speed and blossoming power (flashing 60 raw pull-side power). Like Kelenic, Swaggerty is a potential five-tool player.
7. Nick Madrigal, 2B/SS, Oregon State
Before he fractured his left wrist on February 23rd, Nick Madrigal was on fire to start the season. The best pure hitter in the draft, he makes consistent hard contact while limiting strikeouts. In addition to his plus hit tool, Madrigal is a double-plus runner, with sub-4 second home-to-first times from the right-side. Standing at a listed 5’8″, he has minimal power, tallying just 7 home runs across three college seasons (2 this year, though). In the era of Jose Altuve, however, players like Madrigal shine. Once he returns from injury, continued elite performance could elevate him to the top of the MLB draft.
8. Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge HS
A tall and lean left-handed pitcher, Matthew Liberatore is as projectable as they come. Currently, he possesses a solid average to above-average arsenal, including a low-90s fastball, a low-70s, 12-to-6 curveball, and a low-80s, fading changeup. All three pitches flash above-average to plus on occasion. In more recent outings, Liberatore also incorporated a promising, mid-80s slider. Further, he exhibits advanced pitchability, mound presence, and command for a high school pitcher.
9. Nolan Gorman, 3B, O’Connor HS
Power is Nolan Gorman’s calling card. A repeat home run derby champion among the elite high school hitters, he has enormous 70-grade raw power. However, questions regarding his hit tool and athleticism hinder his draft stock. Although he is prone to swing-and-miss, Gorman is showing improved discipline this spring and his bat speed remains elite. In addition, even though his speed and athleticism are below-average, he is passable at third base.
10. Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS
Last summer, Ethan Hankins was the most dominant arm on a Team USA roster including Liberatore, Rocker, and Weathers. In February, he suffered from shoulder tightness, creating enough of a scare to dampen his soaring draft stock. When healthy, Hankins throws a mid-90s fastball, touching 98 mph, and his projectable 6’6″ frame portends even more velocity. In addition to the heater, he has two promising secondaries: a mid-80s changeup and a mid-70s, 11-to-5 curveball.
11. Brice Turang, SS, Santiago HS
Eliciting comparisons to Christian Yelich, in physique and hitting ability, Brice Turang is a special talent. A lithe left-handed hitter, he drives the ball gap-to-gap with authority and utilizes his plus speed on the bases. Despite a slow start at the NHSI, Turang finished with two multi-hit games. Since then, he further impressed at the Boras Classic. Although the bat alone is legitimate, Turang also shines in the field, displaying the requisite arm strength, hands, and fluidity for a shortstop.
12. Jeremy Eierman, SS, Missouri State
A teammate of first-round pick Jake Burger, Jeremy Eierman may have more upside. Last year, he hit 23 home runs and stole 17 bases. Although he has hit for less power this year, he already has 16 stolen bases. A power/speed threat with shortstop eligibility is a potential fantasy baseball star. Of course, Eierman has a questionable hit tool, which was on full display during a rough start to this year. Further, his gaudy stolen bases numbers do not accurately reflect his average speed and athleticism. Even if he moves to third base and his stolen bases numbers are more modest, Eierman still can fill up the box score with his power and aggressive play.
13. Greyson Jenista, OF, Wichita State
Paired with Alec Bohm (above), Greyson Jenista forms the most powerful tandem in college baseball. Entering the season, he was slightly ahead of Bohm, coming off a tremendous performance in the Cape Cod League and earning MVP honors. Since then, Bohm passed Jenista in the eyes of most observers. Nevertheless, Jenista remains an elite prospect. A well-built 6’4″, he nearly matches Bohm’s prodigious power with plus or better raw power. In addition, Jenista is a solid hitter, though prone to some swing-and-miss. A good athlete, he currently has above-average speed and plays a serviceable center field.
14. Carter Stewart, RHP, Eau Gallie HS
A quickly rising prospect, Carter Stewart is beginning to crack top 10 lists. A projectable 6’6″, he is starting to fill out and tap into additional velocity, touching 96-98 mph. Normally, Stewart sits in the low-90s with a devastating, upper-70s, 12-to-6 curveball and a promising, low-80s changeup. With an elite spin rate, his curveball is one of the best pitches in this draft class. Stewart’s upside is tantalizing given his frame, reported velocity gains, and knockout curve.
15. Nander De Sedas, SS, Montverde Academy
Nander De Sedas hopes to follow in the footsteps of Montverde alum Francisco Lindor. Like Lindor, he is a switch-hitting shortstop with plus raw power from both sides of the plate and an advanced feel to hit. However, any comparisons to Lindor end there. Although his strong arm and soft hands profile well at shortstop, De Sedas is a mediocre athlete. As he continues to fill out, he likely will need to move to third base, where his bat nonetheless will play.
16. Jonathan India, 3B, Florida
To say Jonathan India is experiencing a breakout year is an understatement. Leading the SEC in nearly every offensive category, he elevated his draft status from a mid-Day 2 pick (Rounds 3-10) to an easy Day 1 selection. The statistical performance is no fluke, either. As evidenced by a towering home run off the top of the batter’s eye on April 6th, India has plus raw power. Further, he consistently sprays line drives to all fields. Meanwhile, India possesses enough speed and athleticism to pass at shortstop. Still underrated, he should continue to climb up draft boards as his skill set elicits recollections of former SEC standout, Alex Bregman.
17. Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson
Another projectable 6’6″ arm, Logan Gilbert showcases a four-pitch mix, headlined by a low-90s fastball he manipulates to sink or cut. Additionally, he has three average to above-average secondaries: a mid-70s, 11-to-5 curveball, a low-80s slider, and a mid-80s changeup. Unlike the arms ahead of him, none of his pitches are presently plus. Relying more on repertoire depth and pitchability, Gilbert is reliable and polished innings-eater.
18. Jackson Kowar, RHP, Florida
Pitching in the shadow of teammate Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar closed the gap thus far. Like Singer, Kowar has a projectable, tall and thin frame. As such, it is reasonable to believe his mid-90s fastball will sit more consistently around 95-96 mph in the future. Arguably his best pitch, however, is his changeup. Thrown with fastball arm speed and in any count, his low-80s changeup sinks and fades. Kowar’s changeup is truly a thing of beauty. On the other hand, his mid-70s, 12-to-6 curveball is erratic and he has difficulty staying on top of the pitch.
19. Ryan Rolison, LHP, Mississippi
A draft-eligible sophomore, Ryan Rolison has had an up-and-down season. When he is on, he expertly commands a low-90s fastball and a low-80s, 2-to-8 slurve, while mixing in an inconsistent changeup. A crafty pitcher, Rolison employs a deceptive, closed off delivery and manipulates the speed and shape of his slurve. Although he lacks much projection, he is athletic and repeats his delivery well.
20. Tristan Pompey, OF, Kentucky
The younger brother of outfielder Dalton Pompey, Tristan has similar loud tools. Still an unrefined athlete, he has immense upside, with prototypical size (6’4″), speed, and raw power. A switch-hitter, Pompey is a force from both sides of the plate, though his long swing leads to some swing-and-miss. A poor performance in the Cape Cod League last summer caused many to sour on him, but he is once more performing well in the difficult SEC.
The Next Best MLB Draft Prospects
Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech
The top catcher in the draft class, Joey Bart possesses plus raw power. An aggressive hitter, however, he can struggle with contact and rack up strikeouts. This year, Bart eased concerns regarding his hit tool, slashing .347/.442/.613, though with 29 strikeouts.
Seth Beer, 1B/OF, Clemson
Ever since his explosive freshman year (.369/.535/.700 with 18 home runs and 27/62 K/BB), Beer has been a favorite 2018 MLB Draft follow. Unfortunately, he has yet to duplicate those numbers and failed to hit much for Team USA the past two summers. Nevertheless, Beer has a promising bat, consistently drawing tons of walks and hitting for power.
Trevor Larnach, OF, Oregon State
In the absence of Nick Madrigal, Trevor Larnach stepped up his game. Carrying a strong Cape Cod League performance (.308/.390/.442) into the year, he is hitting .325/.435/.632 with 8 home runs thus far. The long-awaited power production finally arrived for the 6’4″ slugger. With the power, however, comes plenty of swing-and-miss (26 strikeouts).
Griffin Conine, OF, Duke
The son of former MLB outfielder Jeff Conine, Griffin is a similar corner outfield power bat. Following a huge Cape Cod League performance (.329/.406/.537 with 9 home runs), he had a lot of momentum entering the season. Alas, Conine disappointed, slashing .224/.357/.483 with 39 strikeouts. Now, he looks the part of a three-true-outcome masher than a potential star.
Others of Note:
- Brett Kinneman, OF, N.C. State
- Luke Baker, 1B, TCU
- Steele Walker, OF, Oklahoma
- Jake McCarthy, OF, Virginia
Tristan Beck, RHP, Stanford
After a spectacular freshman season (83 IP, 76 K, 2.48/1.03 ERA/WHIP), Tristan Beck entered his sophomore season considered as a first-round talent. However, a back injury cost him the entire 2017 season. Although draft-eligible, he returned to college this year to rebuild his draft stock. This year, Beck appears back in form, with command of four average to above-average pitches.
Sean Hjelle, RHP, Kentucky
Sean Hjelle is an extremely tall (6’11”) pitcher. For context, the tallest MLB pitcher ever was Jon Rauch (6’11”). Shockingly, Hjelle has good command and repeats his delivery, despite his long levers. Given his height, he generates superb extension on his low-90s fastball and low-80s, 12-to-6 curveball. With plenty of room to fill out, Hjelle may add even more velocity.
Blaine Knight, RHP, Arkansas
This year, Blaine Knight conquered all of the SEC aces, including Casey Mize and Brady Singer. Relying primarily on two pitches, a low-90s fastball and a mid-80s slider, he will need to continue to develop his changeup or curveball to find success at the next level.
Others of Note:
- Konnor Pilkington, LHP, Mississippi State
- Matt Mercer, RHP, Oregon
- Kris Bubic, LHP, Stanford
- Tim Cate, LHP, Connecticut
High School Hitters
Triston Casas, 3B/1B, American Heritage HS
The hulking and powerful Triston Casas (6’4″ 238) impressed observers during the NHSI. Displaying good plate discipline and big power, he is making a strong case for a Day 1 selection. Despite playing third base this year and a strong arm, his size almost certainly will relegate him to first base in the future.
Connor Scott, OF, Plant HS
A potential five-tool player, Connor Scott already possesses plus speed and a feel for hitting. This spring, reports indicate he is hitting the ball with more authority and loft.
Jordyn Adams, OF, Green Hope HS
The breakout star of the NHSI, Jordyn Adams showcased elite speed, while demonstrating an ability to hit and hit for some power. Committed to North Carolina to play football (wide receiver) and baseball, he may be a difficult sign.
Others of Note:
- Xavier Edwards, SS, North Broward Prep
- Joe Gray Jr., OF, Hattiesburg HS
- Will Banfield, C, Brookwood HS
- Mike Siani, OF, William Penn Charter HS
- Alek Thomas, OF, Mount Carmel HS
- Noah Naylor, C, St. Joan of Arc SS
High School Pitchers
Kumar Rocker, RHP, North Oconee HS
Likely #21 on this list, Kumar Rocker rivals Liberatore, Hankins, and Stewart as the top prep arm. A fully developed 6’5″ and 250 pounds, he does not need any projection as his fastball already sits in the mid-90s. Further, Rocker pairs his plus heater with a plus, mid-80s, wipeout slider.
Ryan Weathers, LHP, Loretta HS
The son of former MLB pitcher David Weathers, Ryan commands three solid pitches, including a fastball reportedly averaging 95 mph in outings this spring.
Mason Denaburg, RHP, Merritt Island HS
Currently, Mason Denaburg is shut down with biceps tendonitis. Prior to the injury, he was rapidly rising up draft boards behind a fastball touching 97 mph and a plus curveball.
Cole Winn, RHP, Orange Lutheran HS
In addition to his 80-grade pitching last name, Cole Winn has a plus low-to-mid-90s fastball and a plus, 12-to-6, upper-70s curveball. Notably, he performed well at the NHSI and showcased his high spin rate curveball.
Others of Note:
- Cole Wilcox, RHP, Heritage HS
- Slade Cecconi, RHP, Trinity Prep HS
- Mike Vasil, RHP, Boston College HS
- Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Central Heights HS
- Austin Becker, RHP, Big Walnut HS
Note, all statistics are through April 8th.
In mid-May, after the college baseball regular season concludes, TDG will publish the next updated Top 2018 MLB Draft Fantasy Prospects. Until then, follow me on Twitter @jaroche6 to keep up with notable developments!