2018 Top MLB Draft Fantasy Prospects, May 2018
In less than two weeks, the 2018 MLB Draft will begin on Monday, June 4th! Over three days, and forty rounds, teams will select over 1,200 players. Only a small portion of those players will even sign with a team, let alone reach the major leagues. On Day 1, teams will make 78 selections, including the first two rounds and compensatory picks. Most, if not all, of the prospects mentioned in this article will be Day 1 selections. The proximity of the MLB Draft and the conclusion of high school and college regular seasons (and playoffs for some) means it is time to revisit the top fantasy prospects of the 2018 draft class.
2018 Top MLB Draft Fantasy Prospects
|40||Nander De Sedas||SS||18.86|
1. Nick Madrigal, 2B/SS, Oregon State
On April 19th, Madrigal returned from a nearly two-month absence due to a fractured left wrist. Upon his return, he picked up where he left off, hitting .398/.469/.542 over 83 at-bats. The best pure hitter in the draft, Madrigal makes consistent hard contact while limiting strikeouts (3.3%). In addition to his excellent hit tool, he is a double-plus runner, with sub-4 second home-to-first times from the right-side.
Standing at a listed 5’8″, Madrigal has minimal power, tallying just 7 home runs across 629 college plate appearances. However, some observers grade his future game power as high as league average due to his exceptional hit tool. Although Madrigal is far from punchless, his power plays more to the gaps than over-the-fence. Regardless, his advanced bat, superb speed, and instincts provide a high floor with an All-Star ceiling.
2. Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn
Although Mize stumbled over his last few starts, he still closes the regular season with a spectacular 133-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. As the stats suggest, he possesses plus command and control with several swing-and-miss offerings. His repertoire includes a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a sharp, upper-80s slider/cutter, and a diving, upper-80s split-finger changeup.
Despite his excellent season, Mize carries some risk. Last year, he missed time due to a tired arm and a flexor strain in his forearm. In addition, Mize allowed nine home runs, and his fastball occasionally lacks movement. Finally, no pitch in his repertoire creates much velocity separation, speeding bats up. Nevertheless, Mize is a special talent, a strong favorite to go first overall, and likely a quick mover in the Minors.
3. Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State
The premier power bat of the MLB Draft, Bohm possesses 70-grade raw power and a strong 6’5″ frame. In addition to the power, he developed into an all-around hitter, with improved plate discipline and a more refined approach. Notably, among Division 1 hitters with 12 or more home runs, only Andrew Vaughn has a lower strikeout percentage than Bohm (9.5%). In the field, even though he has struggled this year (.897 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.
4. Brady Singer, RHP, Florida
Through April 8th, Singer experienced an up-and-down season. Diminished velocity (low-90s), a concerning, high energy delivery, low arm slot, and too many home runs allowed (6) caused his draft stock to fall. Since then, however, Singer has been electric over his final five starts (1.22/0.78 ERA/WHIP with 45/7 K/BB and just 1 HRA in 37 IP). Further, he outdueled Casey Mize on April 26th in a high profile matchup. In fact, Singer, not Mize, won SEC Pitcher of the Year honors. Now, Singer is back in the conversation as a top-5 pick.
Regardless of his shifting draft stock, he continues to carry tremendous fantasy upside. With a tall and lean frame, Singer has plenty of remaining projection. Even without improved strength and velocity, he is nearly MLB-ready. Singer commands a firmly above-average repertoire, including a running, low-to-mid-90s fastball, a biting slider, and a tumbling changeup.
5. Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech
In 2007, the fifth overall pick was a Georgia Tech catcher (Matt Wieters). This year, Bart likely will also be a top-5 pick. Since April 8th, he solidified himself atop the draft, hitting .398/.537/.705 with 7 home runs and 23-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Previously, Bart was an aggressive hitter with significant contact issues. Now, he is displaying much improved patience while tapping into more of his enormous raw power. Nonetheless, Bart still has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game. Further, as a catcher, he has limited fantasy upside.
I omitted Bart from the top 20 in April. In the comments here, I noted, “[m]ost major prospect sites rank catchers highly based upon defensive ability and positional value.” Further, I elaborated on Bart, stating “a 45 hit/55 power bat at catcher only goes so far” in fantasy. The thrust of the argument largely remains true today. However, my grades on Bart shifted from 45 to 50 hit and 55 to 60 power, recognizing his improved patience and ability to tap into his power.
6. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha West HS
Hailing from Wisconsin, Kelenic, unfortunately, does not receive the same attention as many other prep prospects. Indeed, many organizations shy away from cold-weather prep prospects. Despite his lack of coverage, Kelenic still resonates with scouts, following tremendous performances for Team USA the past two summers. As John Sickels notes, observers “universally” consider Kelenic as “one of the best pure hitters in the class, with good feel for the strike zone and a mechanically-sound swing that he repeats well.” Meanwhile, he flashes plus raw power, with big exit velocity, plus speed, a plus arm, and impressive work ethic. Whether Kelenic loses a step as he ages and, therefore, moves to right field is a concern. However, he possesses rare, five-tool upside with huge fantasy potential.
7. Carter Stewart, RHP, Eau Gallie HS
Arguably, Stewart boasts the best pitch in the MLB Draft, a 70-grade, devastating, low-80s, 12-to-6 curveball with an elite spin rate. In addition to the curveball, he added significant velocity this spring, sitting in the low-to-mid-90s and reaching as high as 98 mph. Further, John Sickels reports Stewart flashes “a promising change-up during bullpen work” and he has good control and composure. A projectable and athletic 6’6″, he may only be touching the surface of his potential.
8. Travis Swaggerty, OF, South Alabama
Following an electric performance for Team USA last summer, Swaggerty entered the season squarely in the first round conversation. After a blazing 16-for-41 start with 3 home runs and 21 walks (.390/.609/.707), including 4 games with 3 walks, he elevated to the top of the first round. During this stretch, Swaggerty faced difficult competition, including Texas Tech and Auburn, quelling small conference concerns. Since then, however, he hit just .270/.397/.497 with a 29-to-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio against inferior competition.
Observers note Swaggerty tends to over-stride at the plate, allowing him to tap into his plus, raw pull-side power. Unfortunately, his stride, and new power-oriented approach, causes him to be off-balance and struggle against off-speed pitches. Given his uneven spring, Swaggerty’s profile is unclear, with both his future hit and power tools ranging from 45 to 55. Regardless, he possesses five-tool upside, with patience, power, and speed.
9. Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge HS
A tall and lean left-handed pitcher, Liberatore is as projectable as they come. His repertoire is deep and above-average, including a low-90s fastball, touching as high as 96 mph, a low-70s, 12-to-6 curveball, a low-80s changeup, and a mid-80s slider. At times, his fastball, curveball, and changeup each flash plus. Further, he exhibits advanced pitchability, mound presence, and command for a high school pitcher.
10. Jonathan India, 3B, Florida
To say Jonathan India broke out this 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 above-average to plus raw power. Further, he consistently sprays line drives to all fields. Meanwhile, India possesses enough speed and athleticism to pass at shortstop.
On the downside, India does not possess a standout tool, with nearly every tool earning future grades of 50 or 55. In addition, he slumped over his final 15 games, hitting just .200/.369/.400 with 16 strikeouts (24.6%). However, as an advanced college bat performing in the most difficult college conference, India carries far less risk than his contemporaries. At his best, he showcases above-average tools across the board, with a high floor, but lower ceiling.
11. 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 and exit velocities remain elite. In addition, even though his speed and athleticism are below-average, he is passable at third base.
12. Trevor Larnach, OF, Oregon State
Last year, Larnach played an integral part on a dominant Oregon State team, often batting third between Nick Madrigal and K.J. Harrison. Despite standing at a powerful 6’4″, he rarely tapped into his power, hitting just three collegiate home runs over two seasons. Following the season, Larnach impressed with wooden bats in the Cape Cod League, but again failed to hit for much game power.
This year, Madrigal fractured his left wrist on February 23rd, leaving Larnach to carry the offense for nearly two months. In that period, he hit seven home runs, leading Oregon State to a 20-6 record in Madrigal’s absence. Most importantly, the long-awaited power production finally arrived for the big slugger. In addition to his plus or better raw power, Larnach has a feel to hit, spraying hard contact to all fields. Although there is some swing-and-miss inherent in his game, he perfectly fits the profile of a polished, power-hitting corner outfielder.
13. Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida
On March 16th, McClanahan was part of a dominant no-hitter, throwing 6 scoreless and hitless innings with 15 strikeouts. At the time, he had allowed 0 earned runs and just 12 hits over his first 30 2/3 innings. The industry was salivating over his powerful left arm, which sat in the mid-90s and touched 100 mph. Further, McClanahan flashed a plus, mid-80s changeup with deceptive arm speed and tumbling action, and a solid low-80s slider. Command and control was a concern, as he issued 36 walks in 76 innings the prior year, but it was manageable (56-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio).
Over the past two months, McClanahan fell off the rails. In 7 starts and 35 2/3 innings, he allowed 26 earned runs, 29 hits, and 26 walks. In addition, his stuff regressed, with reduced velocity and inconsistent secondaries. Most importantly, McClanahan lost any semblance of command. Even with an elite arsenal, without command, a pitcher will not find much success at the major league level. Entering the draft, McClanahan is one of the highest risk/reward real-life and fantasy prospects available.
14. Connor Scott, OF, Plant HS
Arguably, Scott has the highest upside of any player in the MLB Draft. Indeed, the tall (6’4″), speedy, left-handed bat draws some lofty comparisons, including Christian Yelich and former Plant HS alum, Astros prospect Kyle Tucker. A potential five-tool player, Scott already possesses plus to double-plus speed and a feel for hitting. Additionally, it is easy to dream on the power projection emanating from his large, undeveloped frame.
15. Jeremy Eierman, SS, Missouri State
A teammate of 2017 first round pick Jake Burger, 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 still exhibits excellent bat speed and high exit velocities. Meanwhile, Eierman is an aggressive, instinctual base runner, making the most of his speed. 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 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.
16. Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson
After flashing mid-90s velocity in a dominant Cape Cod League performance, Gilbert put his name on the map. This spring, however, his fastball regressed, sitting in the low-90s, but with plenty of movement. With a projectable 6’6″ frame, Gilbert very well may rediscover the lost velocity. Nevertheless, he showcases a four-pitch mix, with three average to above-average secondaries (curveball, slider, and changeup). Unlike the arms ahead of him, none of his pitches are presently plus. Relying more on repertoire depth, solid command, and pitchability, Gilbert is already a reliable, polished innings-eater.
17. Greyson Jenista, OF, Wichita State
Paired with Alec Bohm (above), Jenista forms the most powerful tandem in college baseball. A well-built 6’4″, he nearly matches Bohm’s prodigious power with plus or better raw power. In addition, Jenista is a solid, patient hitter, though prone to some swing-and-miss. Notably, he has a strong record with wooden bats, earning MVP honors in the Cape Cod League last summer.
A good athlete, Jenista currently has above-average speed and plays a serviceable center field. As noted by Kiley McDaniel, however, he is larger than his listed weight and “draws comparisons to players like Adam Dunn or late-career Lance Berkman.” In real-life, those comparisons may dampen his draft stock. On the other hand, those comparisons should catch the attention of all fantasy owners.
18. Triston Casas, 3B/1B, American Heritage HS
Standing at a hulking 6’4″ and 238 pounds, Casas may have the biggest raw power in the MLB Draft. Further, during the National High School Invitational, he displayed a patient approach and good plate discipline. Despite playing third base this year and a strong arm, his size almost certainly will relegate him to first base in the future. Regardless where he ends up, Casas has huge upside as a premier power hitter.
19. Brice Turang, SS, Santiago HS
Following an impressive performance with Team USA last summer, Turang was an early favorite to be a top-5 pick. This spring, his body and raw power have not developed as many hoped. In fact, Baseball America notes many teams do not project “much more than fringe-average raw power” for Turang. Despite modest power, he is still an excellent bat. A lithe left-handed hitter, Turang drives the ball gap-to-gap with authority and utilizes his plus speed on the bases. Although the bat alone is legitimate, he also shines in the field, displaying the requisite arm strength, hands, and fluidity for a shortstop.
20. Cole Winn, RHP, Orange Lutheran HS
After dominating in the National High School Invitational, Winn jumped up draft boards. Since then, he continued to impress across all competitions. In addition to his 80-grade pitching last name, Winn has an electric and deep repertoire. He has advanced command of a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a 12-to-6, upper-70s curveball, a low-80s slider, and a promising changeup.
The Next Best MLB Draft Prospects
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 had an abysmal start to the season, hitting just .211 with 45 strikeouts over the first 38 games. In fact, Duke dropped him to eighth in the lineup. To close the season, however, the switch finally flipped for Conine, including a 10-game hitting streak in which he hit .529/.636/1.265 with 7 home runs.
Steele Walker, OF, Oklahoma
Last summer, Walker was one of the top hitters on USA’s Collegiate National Team, hitting .333/.417/.514 with 2 home runs and 7 stolen bases. This year, he is one of the top hitters in college baseball, slashing .352/.441/.606 with 13 home runs. Although he lacks the raw power of other corner outfield prospects, Walker can hit, with a long record of success.
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 once more performed well in the difficult SEC (.343/.452/.569).
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 (48) and hitting for power (19 home runs).
Others of Note:
- Jameson Hannah, OF, Dallas Baptist
- Jake McCarthy, OF, Virginia
- Kyler Murray, OF, Oklahoma
- Kyle Isbel, OF, UNLV
Jackson Kowar, RHP, Florida
Pitching in the shadow of teammate Brady Singer, Kowar had a strong season. 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. On the other hand, his mid-70s, 12-to-6 curveball is erratic and he has difficulty staying on top of the pitch.
Ryan Rolison, LHP, Auburn
A draft-eligible sophomore, 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.
Tristan Beck, RHP, Stanford
After a spectacular freshman season (83 IP, 76 K, 2.48/1.03 ERA/WHIP), 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
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.
Others of Note:
- Kris Bubic, LHP, Stanford
- Blaine Knight, RHP, Arkansas
- Griffin Roberts, RHP, Wake Forrest
- Konnor Pilkington, LHP, Mississippi State
High School Hitters
Jordyn Adams, OF, Green Hope HS
The breakout star of the National High School Invitational, Adams showcased elite speed, while demonstrating an ability to hit and hit for some power. Despite a strong commitment to North Carolina to play football (wide receiver) for his father, many believe he will sign. Few prospects in the MLB Draft possess his upside should he tap into his raw tools.
Noah Naylor, C, St. Joan of Arc SS
The younger brother of Josh Naylor, Noah has similar hitting ability and power potential. Unlike his older brother, however, he has good athleticism and a strong arm, allowing him to profile at catcher or third base.
Nander De Sedas, SS, Montverde HS
Like former Montverde alum Francisco Lindor, De Sedas is a switch-hitting shortstop with above-average raw power from both sides of the plate and a 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. Once considered a first round lock, De Sedas had a poor spring, dropping him far down draft boards.
Others of Note:
- Xavier Edwards, SS, North Broward Prep
- Nick Schnell, OF, Roncalli HS
- Jordan Groshans, 3B, Magnolia HS
- Mike Siani, OF, William Penn Charter HS
- Parker Meadows, OF, Grayson HS
- Joe Gray Jr., OF, Hattiesburg HS
- Will Banfield, C, Brookwood HS
- Alek Thomas, OF, Mount Carmel HS
High School Pitchers
Kumar Rocker, RHP, North Oconee HS
A fully developed 6’5″ and 250 pounds, Rocker does not need any projection as his fastball already sits in the mid-90s. Further, he pairs his plus heater with a plus, mid-80s, wipeout slider. Recently, Rocker has fallen down draft boards due to a poor finish this spring with reduced velocity.
Ryan Weathers, LHP, Loretta HS
The son of former MLB pitcher David Weathers, Ryan has a promising left-handed arm. Now, momentum is starting to build for Weathers as a top-10 pick. His repertoire is deep with four average or better offerings, including a fastball reportedly averaging 95 mph in outings this spring. Further, Weathers is reportedly throwing two distinct breaking balls (curveball and slider).
Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS
Last summer, 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. Then, upon his return, his stuff regressed and he was inconsistent. In a deep class of prep pitching, Hankins fell behind many others. When he is on, he throws a mid-90s fastball, touching 98 mph, with two promising secondaries (changeup and curveball). Further, his projectable 6’6″ frame portends even more velocity.
Others of Note:
- Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Central Heights HS
- Mason Denaburg, RHP, Merritt Island HS
- Mike Vasil, RHP, Boston College HS
- Cole Wilcox, RHP, Heritage HS