In case you weren’t around in the past week, the Atlanta Braves and top draft pick Carter Stewart failed to agree to a contract. This came after news of Stewart’s physical showing an issue with his wrist.
Due to him not signing the Braves get the ninth pick in the 2019 draft as a compensation selection. That is because Stewart was selected eighth this year, and that eighth pick plus one gives the team the ninth selection next year.
How good is the 2019 draft? It’s fine. Overall it’s simply too early to rate the class as a whole as players have plenty of chances to move up or down the board. It’s not as good/deep as this year was, but the Braves will get good players.
Would I prefer Stewart or the ninth pick? Without a doubt I would want Stewart and his two potentially 70 grade pitches.
Does this effect the Braves own pick? No, the Braves still keep their own pick. That pick will be a later first rounder, but gives the Braves two first round selections. Free agency could change things for better or worse draft wise.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of this draft? It’s too early to get definitive, but the college bat market is significantly better than 2018. The college arms are down quite a bit for me, particularly at the top. It’s also a pretty solid year for catching and the left side of the infield.
Will they play games with pool? Probably not. The 2019 class isn’t especially strong and the strength is on the college side rather than prep side. While the Braves have an extra pick, so do other teams- there are a bonus pool era record four unsigned first round picks and we know more comp picks will come after free agency.
The Two Who Won’t Be There
It’s a little early to make definitive statements about who will or will not be around at nine a year from now. Just look at Brice Turang, Ethan Hankins, and Nander De Sedas from this point last year. However I’m willing to bet there are two guys who won’t be there for the Braves at nine.
These are special players who have enough pluses on their scorecards that it’s just hard to see them falling that far.
One is Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, a special athlete who was also a member of the Beavers football team and a player type who doesn’t fall(college catching). Rutschman may be the best catching prospect in years in the draft- more complete as a hitter and defender than even Joey Bart this year.
The other is Texas prep shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., who not only has big league bloodlines but has been the #1 name in the 2019 high school class for a few years now. Witt may be the best prep hitter in the draft in years, maybe even best prep player. He’s not Bryce Harper elite, but he’s special.
Odds are that these guys go 1-2, and if they don’t it’s just hard to see them falling far. Neither has any major holes in their game and play premium positions with great track records. So let’s not spend too much time focusing on either of them.
High School Bats
CJ Abrams, SS, Georgia HS- A special athlete is the best way to describe him. Our own Eric Cole saw him live at a tournament and immediately called me to go on about him despite there being some high end 2018 draft talent. Abrams is what you call a five tool talent, and there is a chance that he can emerge into that top two as he’s my personal #3 at the moment. All he needs to rise up is to see his power take a step forward, as that is the tool that remains behind the rest.
CJ Abrams has such an easy swing and ball jumps off his barrel. pic.twitter.com/UYztXXbYmI— Perfect Game USA (@PerfectGameUSA) June 14, 2018
Riley Greene, OF, Florida HS-With Greene it’s all about the hit tool. You may not find a better hitter in the prep class than him both with his ability to make hard contact as well as taking walks. Presently there is power there, but he projects to add plenty more in time. Should the present power take a step forward in the next year, he could also move up.
‘19 OF Riley Greene just continues to rake. Hammers this first pitch foul before singling in a run. It’s amazing how long his barrel stays in the zone. More from his work on Day 1 HERE: https://t.co/Byd8hN5RBe pic.twitter.com/xeZO2uJip7— Shooter Hunt (@ShooterHunt) June 2, 2018
Rece Hinds, 3B, Florida HS-He’s the best power bat in the prep class, similar to how Triston Casas was at this time last year as a Florida prep 3B. Hinds is a guy who is much more likely to stick at third than Casas, who is likely ticketed for first defensively, and because of that he will go higher than where Casas did. The power isn’t quite as elite as Casas at the same point, but the better glove and a solid hit tool more than help make up the difference.
Jerrion Ealy, OF, Mississippi HS-Similar to Joe Gray Jr. last year, Ealy is an extremely toolsy outfielder with loud tools, swing and miss, and fits into the historically rically risky Mississippi prep hitter category. Unlike Gray, who fell when his hit tool didn’t progress enough, Ealy is also a top football recruit headed to Ole Miss to play running back. Ealy likely has more growth in him if he was to concentrate on baseball alone, but this is something to watch.
High School Arms
Brennan Malone, RHP, North Carolina HS-What more could you ask for from a prep arm? He’s got a track record, the ability to get his fastball into the upper 90s, throws strikes with it, and also has potentially two other plus offerings in his change and curve.
Daniel Espino, RHP, Georgia HS-The other local prep player, Espino has risen up the board recently after throwing gas at a national showcase. Espino throws hard, he hits as high as 98 MPH- but he’s also got a pair of breaking balls and a change. As a recent riser, his track record for me isn’t quite as strong as some of these other arms but he’s got the potential to establish himself as the top prep pitcher in the class.
2019 RHP Daniel Espino 95-98 mph in his first inning at 17u WWBA. Low 80s slider, 74 CB and 89 change as he struck out 3. pic.twitter.com/nSN2WBNIfb— Perfect Game USA (@PerfectGameUSA) July 1, 2018
Hunter Barco, LHP, Florida HS-Barco has been the top prep arm in the class for the longest time thanks to an early breakout, but he doesn’t have the elite velocity that some of these others have. His lower 90s fastball and slider are his two best offerings, but he has a change which has also shown real promise as well. Barco is clearly the top prep lefty in the class.
Matthew Thompson, RHP, Texas HS-Thompson is a hard throwing Texan with the typical command isssues that you might expect from a young Texas power arm. The worry with Thompson is that he is a little undersized for a premium arm, standing in at just 6’1”. I like Thompson but his command and size put him further down my list.
Nick Lodolo, LHP, TCU-An unsigned first rounder in 2016 after turning down just under $2M from the Pirates, Lodolo has gone on to have two solid years in Fort Worth. He is a projectable 6’6” lefty who already hits 95 MPH with his fastball to go with his curve and change. He needs to take a step forward to go in the Top 10 after posting more solid than elite numbers, but with remaining projection that is a possibility.
Graeme Stinson, LHP, Duke-The lefty with the huge stuff. The 6’5”, 250 lefty only made four starts this year on a talented Duke team, but he absolutely dominated mostly out of the pen while hitting 62 innings pitched. He needs work to get taken in the Top 10 as a starter, but as a lefty capable of hitting 96 MPH with a plus plus slider, the ingredients are there for something special.
Watching @GraemeStinson from @DukeBASE pitching for @FirebirdsCCBL . He’s sitting 92-95, bumping higher. Spin rate 1900-2100.— Stu Murray (@Stu_Murray1) June 20, 2018
Slider is 83-86 with a nasty, late back-foot break. Spin rate 2600-2800.
Carving up Cotuit early. Departs for Team USA in few days. pic.twitter.com/iKjy1dbow9
Tyler Dyson, RHP, Florida-Florida’s next top pitcher is Dyson. He came in and dominated out of the pen as a freshman but his move to the rotation this year didn’t go as planned due to his command waivering at times. There is plenty to like if he can take a step forward with the command in his second year in the rotation. He’s a tall, athletic starter with a huge upper 90s fastball, but also needs to see the slurvy slider and change to see some refinement.
Andrew Vaughn, 1B, Cal-He may not be my #4 overall player, but behind the big two and Abrams, there is no player I personally like more in the 2019 class. Vaughn won the Golden Spikes Award(college baseball’s version of the Heisman) after hitting a ridiculous .402/.531/.819 with 14 doubles, 23 homers, and an even more impressive 44 walks to just 18 strikeouts. The former two way player is an athletic 6’0” and 210 pounds and with his athleticism and strong arm may be able to move to the outfield from first base- further increasing his value. It’s worth noting that Vaughn impressed in a short stint in the Cape this summer before heading away and looking good in the US National Team. Should he move to the outfield and play adequate defense, his ability to hit for contact and power while limiting strikeouts would be a huge asset for some team.
Josh Jung, 3B, Texas Tech-Texas Tech has produced a number of Braves draftees in recent years. From Matt Withrow, Matt Custred, and Tyler Neslony to Ryan Shetter and Ty Harpenau this year the Braves have frequented Texas Tech for talent. Jung happens to be the best prospect out of Tech in years, a former shortstop turned third baseman with a great feel for hitting plus power potential. He feels like more of a #3 hitter than a cleanup type because he’s more of a mix of hitting and power potential than he is a true masher.
Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor-It’s a strong crop of catchers with more than just Rutschman, and Langeliers is easily the second best out there. The Baylor standout has 32 doubles and 21 career homers with an acceptable strikeout rate and the ability to draw some walks. His average did dip this year from .313 to .252, but his ISO actually went slightly up. I see him being a .250 hitter with 20-25 homer power and the ability to play at least average defense behind the plate, more likely above average.
Logan Davidson, SS, Clemson-Some really love Davidson. I’m not in that camp as his strikeouts do scare me away. He’s a toolsy shortstop with athleticism and real pop, but he saw a spike in strikeouts this year after going down 68 times. He wasn’t quite as strikeout prone as a freshman, but he did still have 53 more in 2017. For a kid with 33 extra base hits this year, who has double digit steals each year in campus, and the ability to draw walks, some can overlook his swing and miss tendencies. I can’t fully get over them, but if he improves in that area he can get himself into that top group.
Will Holland, SS, Auburn-Will Holland broke out this spring for Auburn and is a guy with some similarities to Davidson. They are both shortstops with power and some athleticism who strikeout more than you would like. I see Holland as the guy who has less swing and miss by a bit, but he’s also not nearly the same disciplined hitter than Davidson is.
Bryson Stott, SS, UNLV-Stott is a middle infielder with significant power. He only homered four times this year but managed 30 doubles and a .998 OPS with almost twice as many walks as strikeouts. He’s playing with the US National Team and opening eyes with his power this summer.
UNLV’s Bryson Stott just absolutely destroyed ball WAY over the RF foul pole into the old train depot beyond the fence. I haven’t seen an amateur hit a ball that far in awhile...big #MLBDraft upside as a LHH MIF with that kinda power.— Brian Sakowski (@B_Sakowski_PG) July 8, 2018
Michael Toglia, OF, UCLA-UCLA’s slugger also strikes out quite a bit, but with 35 extra base hits and a career walk rate of over 16% it is easy to get past that. Toglia has all the tools of a cleanup hitter, and his ability to smack line drives and hit for both average and power despite the strikeouts is very appealing.
Matt Wallner, OF, Southern Miss-This two way star has a future with the bat instead of on the mound thanks to 35 homers in two years. Wallner has hit above .336 in both years for Southern Miss and also walks at a very high clip to go with a manageable strikeout rate for a middle of the order bat.
Spencer Brickhouse, 1B, East Carolina-East Carolina’s slugging first baseman slash outfielder Spencer Brickhouse brings power and some on base ability. He’s probably towards the bottom of the list for me, but after cutting his strikeout rate in half from last year there is plenty of hope for further progress. The fact he’s having success on the Cape this summer doesn’t hurt, but I would like to see more line drive contact next year.
Greg Jones, SS, UNC Wilmington-Greg Jones was a Top 100 draft prospect for some in 2017 and will enter the draft as an eligible sophomore in 2019. He’s got some power and speed but really needs to improve his strikeout rate after striking out 70 times. He’s at the bottom part of this list right now, but it is important to remember he did that as a true freshman and has plenty of room for improvement in 2019.
That’s it for now but I haven’t even mentioned many other college bats from the deep class, guys like Braden Shewmake, Nick Quintana, Drew Mendoza, or a bunch of names from Vanderbilt and Florida.