The 2017 MLB Draft kicks off Monday at 4:00 p.m. pT, and the Dodgers will make their first selection at pick number 23. In the last 24 hours, the landscape of tonight’s first round appears to have changed dramatically, practically from pick one down. So with hours to go, here are my final thoughts before the proceedings get started this evening.
Keston Hiura and Bubba Thompson
A day ago it looked like if you could have made a bet of Thompson/Hiura verses the field, you might have been given even-money odds, now the two may go almost fifteen picks ahead of Los Angeles. So what makes the two suddenly more attractive and why might the Dodgers have had interest in the first place?
Perhaps Hiura made the most sense give his almost 80-grade hit tool, easily the best in this class. The junior from UC Irvine has produced from day one with the Anteaters, and might have the most fluid right hand swing in this draft. Despite his poor defensive reputation, he’s a very loose looking athlete in the batter’s box, capable of making quick adjustments on the fly and barrel the ball in almost any zone location. His power is present just average, but his aptitude could give him more game power down the road.
The question mark with Hiura has been his defensive home and his elbow injury keeping him from presently being able to throw. He was a fringe arm second baseman prior to injury, so there’s a possibility for better arm strength after rehab. That being said, his hands and infield actions are stiffer in the field compared to the fluidity he shows at the plate. While he’s stolen bases at the college level, he’s just average to a tick above on foot, and might be no better than fringe average in left field.
Bubba Thompson is one of the toolsier prep outfielders, which is saying something with this class. He’s easily an 80 runner and looks to have started filling out his thin 6’2 frame. Video from this spring shows a much better swing with loft and improving power potential. His speed also makes him a potential plus defender in centerfield.
However, Thompson is already 19 years old, which could suggest he’s simply maturing ahead of his peers, and might put a cap on the expected upside he is capable of reaching. He previously had looked more raw and susceptible to rolling over pitches against the tougher summer competition as well, so he doesn’t come without his red flags.
However, neither of these players now look as likely to reach pick 23, especially if teams see them as underslot signees earlier in the draft. Both would be solid additions to the Dodgers farm, but I don’t see either as being the best player available when they make their pick in round one.
One of the rumors circling today is that Canning’s medicals came back troublesome, however no media outlet can define this much further. Assuming the worst case scenario here is Tommy John and not labrum surgery, Canning becomes a real darkhorse candidate for the 23rd overall pick.
I won’t go into much detail about Canning, as I covered him earlier, but he’s a polished college right hander with big strikeout production and two swing and miss breaking balls. His velocity puts him more in the “standout number three starter” than “number two” category, but the Dodgers system is deep in pitching, and like with Walker Buehler, can afford to wait a year before reaping the benefits if that is what in fact Canning’s medical calls for. Without additional picks propping up the Dodgers’ bonus pool this year, Canning might be the best candidate for getting a talent commensurate with the draft pick while also saving money to go above slot later.
Personal Favorite Prospects
Here are a few names I like more than most, perhaps in some cases more irrationally so than others, but nonetheless are names I haven’t previous covered on here to date:
JB Bukauskas: He’s my favorite arm this year, and my number two ranked prospect. He’s “undersized” but has more ace potential than Sonny Gray did as a prospect. He has little shot of reaching pick 23, but any team that takes him after the top three picks is getting a steal.
Jeter Downs: Extremely athletic and fluid prep shortstop that is surprisingly not getting more publicity. He needs some refinement on his tools, but the speed-power-defense potential here is something you don’t see too often at shortstop.
Adam Hall: Canadian prepster with really loud tools. Bat speed and exit velocity numbers really jump out here.
Daulton Varsho: Wisconsin Milwaukee catcher was mentioned as a potential first rounder by Baseball America last week. That might be a tad rich, but Varsho has a plus hit tool, some power, and is an athletic catcher with more upside.
CJ Van Eyk: One of the best looking curveballs I watched on film this session, but has injury and signability concerns. He might be a number one overall candidate after three years at Florida State.
James Karinchak: Bryant RHP is deceptive but has put up big strikeout numbers and I see shades of James Kaprielian in him when I watch his film.
Deon Stafford: St. Joseph’s catcher is the poor man’s Daulton Varsho. As a middle day two pick, has an interesting strength/athleticism profile.
“Buyer Beware” Prospects
As the name suggests, here are some names that I have not ranked as high as consensus due to some concerns I have with their profile.
Pavin Smith: Highly rated hit tool, but he’s a first base only type without ideal power and I still see some stiffness at the plate that concerns me.
Two-way players: I say this less about Hunter Greene than the others, but some players seemingly get a bump because they profile as prospects at the plate and on the mound, but if you split the components apart, they don’t always profile at the ranking given to them. Until a team shows willingness to develop two-way guys as true two way guys, you have to rank the guy base on his best position while giving less consideration to the fallback position.
Gavin Sheets and Brian Miller: The Wake Forest first baseman and North Carolina centerfielder had successful years for their ACC clubs, but plodding collegiate first basemen and 6’0 centerfielders with moderate physical tools just don’t seem to have the success rate that would suggest first or second round selections. Additionally, I feel like North Carolina area players tend to be overrated by the amount of coverage they receive from the Carolina-centric amateur baseball media.