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Priester, Jameson highlight names to watch on Draft’s opening night

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The unveiling of the TBLA Top 50 draft picks

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Mississippi State vs Oregon State
Mississippi State’s Ethan Small overcomes a lack of velocity with plus command and deception to dominate division one hitters.
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 draft is less than a week away, and with three picks on day one, the Dodgers’ incoming class will largely be evaluated on the two players taken in round one and the player with their selection at the end of Compensation B round.

The draft class is stacked heavily at the top, and with near consensus on the top prospects in most media lists, it would be a surprise to see anyone from my first three tiers (grades, 80, 70, and 65) slip past the first fifteen picks. After the first half of round one, the players tend to fall more in line with a team’s traditional scouting preferences, with the depth of the later day one picks coming from the college and prep hitting ranks.

While the college pitching crop has been fairly maligned in this year’s class, I still see plenty of athletic arms with upside to be had outside the top fifteen picks.

Today, the focus is on players in the Top 50 to keep an eye on, while also considering recent Dodger drafting trends. I will unveil my current Top 50 (which is included at the end of the article), with some changes possible before the full Top 200 list rolls out this weekend.

Quinn Priester (Prep RHP, No. 14)

Priester has been deservedly getting more attention in first round mocks of late, going as high as 19th in MLB Pipeline’s most recent version. Even getting passed by bias for athletic deliveries with power sinkers, Priester’s ability to spin an already plus breaking ball gives him the upside of a power No. 2 or No. 3 starter in time at the big league level. Priester’s movement and velocity come pretty easily, but he has room for some mechanical adjustments to further shorten and quicken his arm action.

Priester’s present velocity and stuff make him better equipped for a jump to professional ball than most prep arms in this class, and his Texas Christian commitment should not be an impediment to him signing in round one. He could easily be taken ahead of Los Angeles’ first pick at 25, but prep right handers and cold weather state kids (Priester hails from Illinois) can slip on draft day, giving Los Angeles a chance to still see his name available at their first turn.

Drey Jameson (Ball State OF/RHP, No. 16)

One of my favorite prospects this year and a prospect that should be available for the Dodgers at pick No. 25, Jameson is an athletic arm with big strikeout production at Ball State. He’s a sophomore eligible prospect, giving him additional leverage, but that should not stand in the way of him signing with a team selecting him on day one.

Jameson burst on the scene in 2019 by dominating Stanford early in non-conference play. He’s on the smallish side at 6’0, but the former infielder has an athletic delivery and a pair of lively plus pitches in his fastball and slider. He has a floor of late relief given durability and command questions, but should be groomed for starting.

Jameson is just starting to tap into his potential on the mound, and could stand to flourish in the Dodger development system. His upper 90s fastball and power slider give him the upside of a No. 2 starter if everything clicks, and his athleticism should help him make the proper adjustments to fine tune his command for starting at the big league level.

Rece Hinds (Prep 3B, No. 18)

While Hinds seems to fit in most media lists second round window, I find it hard to ignore a player with this physical upside and raw tools in round one. Perhaps Hinds is still far from putting together the whole package, but few players in this class can impact the ball on contact quite like Hinds, with possibly 80 raw power and pro game exit velocities.

Hinds is a large infield prospect at 6’5 and a frame to fill out even more. Like his offensive game, his infield actions need further polish and he could outgrow even third, requiring a move to an outfield corner, where his easy plus arm already fits the right field profile.

Hinds will likely always struggle with strikeouts, given his large zone and some upper body stiffness in his swing. Developing better pitch recognition will be the difference in him striking out 40% of the time in his introduction to Class-A ball to him tapping into his potential as a 40+ home run hitter at the big league level. I like gambles on athleticism and tools, and few players have his combination in this class.

Ethan Small (Mississippi State LHP, No. 28)

How do you balance a class if you take risks with early picks like Rece Hinds? You could start by taking the most polished player in the draft with pick No. 31, which goes to the Dodgers. Small has been dominant this year, carving up the SEC in what could be a banner year for the conference in terms of talent (mostly in future drafts). He’s posted one of the nation’s best strikeout rates despite not having outright plus stuff.

Small pitches around 90 mph with a fastball that he can run, sink and cut. His command is excellent and he knows how to pitch above the barrel to avoid hard contact. His change-up betters his breaking ball, but both could use refinement at the pro level. Small also plays around with timing in his mechanics to keep hitters at bay.

Small carries his own risk in lacking even average present velocity, but he did reach 96 mph prior to Tommy John surgery. He has a high enough pitching aptitude and enough athleticism to adapt his style to potentially increase his velocity if needed. Regardless, Small is a better prospect now than a former Dodger pick with a similar style in Devin Smeltzer, and Smeltzer just reached the major leagues this week. Small might be a low ceiling pick, but one who can clear the low minors quickly and provide the organization with additional prospect equity fairly early as a pro.

Other Names to Watch

He was linked to the Dodgers in the most recent MLB Pipeline mock draft, but Brady McConnell (No. 29) of Florida fits the Dodger prospect MO. McConnell is a rangy, athletic middle infielder that can possibly play center field if he cannot stick at shortstop. His calling card is game pop generated from a lift-oriented steep swing that has some swing and miss, but he he has the pitch recognition to mitigate the concern.

His stock seems down on most media lists, but Matt Wallner (No. 30) of Southern Mississippi still put up gaudy power numbers for the third season in a row. Maybe he’s plagued by over-scouting and lofty expectations, but Wallner still proved he can get to his plus raw power in games with more frequency than most of his other peers outside the top ten picks. He has a plus outfield arm to boot and looks like the right field prototype.

He’s not as polished as Quinn Priester, but prep two way player Bryce Osmond (No. 31) did flash one of the better sliders on the summer circuit, and his athleticism could even exceed that of Priester. He has upside on the mound once he stops splitting time between pitching and shortstop, which will likely draw drafting teams to him early to buy him out of his Oklahoma State commitment.

On film alone, Navy’s Noah Song (No. 40) looks like the most impressive pitcher in this class. The big framed right hander has top of the scale velocity, two plus breaking balls, and some of the best strikeout numbers in division one. Song also has a two year military service commitment that clouds his future and could push the college senior’s pro start too far for some development staff’s liking.

It’s hard to project just who might last until the Dodgers’ pick in the compensation round after round two, but one player that fits the mold of a recent Dodger pick is Fresno State righty Ryan Jensen (No. 55). He’s undersized but athletic and has some of the best arm strength in the college class. Other teams might shy away from trying to start him, but the Dodgers have proven willing to take a chance on all body types on the mound so long as the arm strength is there.

2019 MLB Draft Top 50

Rk Name School Position Overall Risk Ceiling Pros Cons
Rk Name School Position Overall Risk Ceiling Pros Cons
1 Adley Rutschman Oregon State C 80 60 70 elite career statistics, plus hit, pop, defensive rep possibly some swing and miss offensively
2 Andrew Vaughn California 1B 70 60 60 +pop and hit from right side, bat speed, high floor limited to 1B or DH, not as projectable as peers
3 JJ Bleday Vanderbilt LF/RF 70 60 60 excellent hit production, developing + pop, high floor only one year of power production, likely corner OF
4 Bobby Witt Jr. Colleyville Heritage HS SS 70 50 70 loud tools, fluid athlete w/ project., chance for + pop more power over hit, chance for swing and miss
5 CJ Abrams Blessed Trinity HS SS/CF 70 50 70 elite speed, chance for solid hit and pop, big upside a little raw for for an elite prospect, def home
6 Alek Manoah West Virginia RHP 70 50 70 ++ SL, + FB, dominant production, durable one year command production, must watch size
7 Nick Lodolo Texas Christian LHP 65 60 60 excellent frame, still upside, + FB, command, production BB can get slurvy, upside might peak at good no. 3
8 Riley Greene Hagery HS LF/RF 65 50 70 plus bat speed and exit velo, chance for plus pop avg athlete and frame, some swing and miss potential
9 Hunter Bishop Arizona State CF 65 55 60 excellent size/athleticism combo, + power, production upper body stiffness in swing, swing and miss concern
10 Corbin Carroll Lakeside HS CF 65 50 65 loud tools, fluid swing w/ bat speed and exit velo not as projectable build, good not great pop potential
11 Jackson Rutledge San Jacinto JC RHP 65 50 65 big frame, ++SL, chance for + to ++ FB, quick arm one year production, command avg, durability?
12 Bryson Stott Nevada Las Vegas SS 65 55 60 well rounded, good production, soft hands, high floor ceiling more good than great, bat speed just ok
13 Matthew Allen Seminole HS RHP 60 50 65 good arm strength, chance for + to ++ CV, upside long arm action, primarily 2 pitches right now
14 Quinn Priester Cary-Grove HS RHP 60 50 65 excellent life on SNK, easy + CV, athletic, upside must refine his command, arm action could be quicker
15 Zack Thompson Kentucky LHP 60 50 60 4 pitch mix, good production, chance for + SL velo more avg than +, not as projectable, 3-4 upside
16 Drey Jameson Ball State RHP 60 40 70 electric arm, huge k production, chance for + SL, FB undersized, short track record, command
17 Daniel Espino Georgia Premier HS RHP 60 40 70 electric stuff, easy + velo, athletic delivery long arm action, not as projectable physically
18 Rece Hinds IMG Academy HS 3B 60 40 70 loud tools, very projectable, chance for ++ pop, ++ arm raw for pro game, swing and miss ?, outgrow 3B?
19 Jack Leiter Delbarton HS RHP 55 50 55 polish for prep, easy + CV, good velo not as projectable as peers, signability
20 Brennan Malone IMG Academy HS RHP 55 45 60 4 pitch mix, chance for + FB, CV, SL. Upside mechanics can be inconsist., fringe FB command
21 Hunter Barco The Bolles School HS LHP 55 45 60 chance for + to ++ CH, tough slot, projectable poor command, SL will need a rework, signability
22 JJ Goss Cypress Ranch HS RHP 55 45 60 good athlete, chance for + FB and SL, dev CH, upside thin build, some length in arm action
23 Shea Langeliers Baylor C 55 50 50 excellent defensive tools and rep, solid pop uneven college production, bat speed ?, off. ceiling
24 Josh Jung Texas Tech 3B/1B 55 50 50 good hit tool, solid approach, still time for pop just ok actions at 3B, avg power production, ceiling
25 Brett Baty Lake Travis HS 3B 55 45 55 big raw power, strong frame, chance for above avg hit old for class, not as projectable, swing and miss ?
26 George Kirby Elon RHP 55 50 50 polished, good command, 4 pitch mix, smooth mech. no true + offering, upside more a #4 than #3
27 Kody Hoese Tulane 3B/1B 55 45 55 loud jr. yr. production, chance for + hit and pop short track record, avg athlete, def. home
28 Ethan Small Mississippi State LHP 55 50 50 extremely deceptive, elite K production, + command fringe velo, no outright + pitch, 4/5 ceiling
29 Brady McConnell Florida SS/CF 55 40 60 good athlete, chance for + pop, bat speed, 60 run might not stick at SS, soph leverage, swing and miss
30 Matt Wallner Southern Mississippi RF 55 45 55 big pop, career production, has flashed + OF arm injury?, avg athlete, some swing and miss
31 Bryce Osmond Jenks HS RHP 55 40 60 terrific athlete, quick arm, flashes easy + SL, upside profile can look reliever, inconsistent arm slot
32 Logan Davidson Clemson SS 55 45 55 fluid mover at SS, good power production, athletic swing is long, will bar out, swing and miss and hit ?
33 Gunnar Henderson Morgan Academy HS SS 55 45 55 projectable build, chance for + pop, above avg hit just ok MIF actions, avg athleticism for SS
34 Brooks Lee San Luis Obispo HS SS 55 45 55 good build, should stick at SS, bat speed as LH & RH contact over pop, balance and rotational issues
35 Kameron Misner Missouri CF/RF 55 40 55 raw tools, good size, good defensive rep poor production, long swing, gap in raw v game pop
36 Michael Busch North Carolina 1B/LF 50 50 50 solid feel for hit, career production, high floor defensive home, bat speed ?, overall ceiling
37 Maurice Hampton Memphis Univ HS CF 50 40 60 strong and fluid athlete, above avg to + runner raw for the pro game, some swing and miss
38 Matt Cronin Arkansas LHP 50 50 50 traditional closer upside, high spin FB, CV, power arm high effort delivery, one inning reliever likely
39 Sammy Siani Penn Charter HS CF 50 45 55 pretty LH swing, chance for + hit, defensive rep skills over tools, not as projectable, future pop ?
40 Noah Song Navy RHP 50 35 65 pure power arm, still projectable, chance for 3+ pitches 2 year service requirement, level of competition
41 Will Wilson North Carolina State 2B/SS 50 50 50 good career production, chance for above avg hit, pop defensive home, not projectable, swing length
42 Braden Shewmake Texas A&M 2B/SS 50 50 50 good feel for hit and barrel control, solid career prod. atypical 2B, flat bat plane, ? on overall ceiling
43 Seth Johnson Campbell RHP 50 45 55 good athlete, chance for + velo, 4 pitch mix no outright + present pitch, one year production
44 Keoni Cavaco Eastlake HS 3B 50 40 60 big raw power, projectable, good arm, upside lots of swing and miss ?, underexposed, avg athlete
45 Ryan Zeferjahn Kansas RHP 50 45 55 arm strength, chance for + to ++ FB, SL flashes + inconsistent release, avg command, uneven production
46 Kendall Williams IMG Academy HS RHP 50 40 60 good feel, highly projectable, chance for + FB w/ run tough sign, nothing presently +, distance from bigs
47 Isaiah Campbell Arkansas RHP 50 50 50 good production, SL flashes +, tumbling CH, durable upside more 3/4, will need to watch his frame
48 Anthony Volpe Delbarton HS SS/2B 50 45 55 reputation for makeup, smooth RH swing, solid hit not as projectable, signability, poss. 2B
49 Matthew Thompson Cypress Ranch HS RHP 50 40 60 live arm, flashes easy + SL, projectable frame presently 2 pitches, some command ?
50 Jimmy Lewis Lake Travis HS RHP 50 40 60 projectable build, good feel for spin, upside signability, mechanics need smoothing