This week, Ben, John, and Kate are previewing the first round of the MLB draft with a thought-experiment: what if the Mariners had every pick in the first round of the 2018 draft? Picks 1-6 and a general intro are here , picks 7-12 are here, and 13-18 are here.
In our perfect world, the Mariners get all of these picks, but in the real world, the Mariners will have picked in the last batch of prospects. However, there’s still intriguing talent to be found, especially at the prep level, on the back nine of the first round.
Pick 19: Kate selects Carter Stewart, RHP, Eau Gallie HS (Florida)
Stewart is a 6’6” righty who hasn’t quite filled out his long, lean frame, and his fastball hangs out in the low 90s. That doesn’t matter as much, though, because Stewart’s real calling card is his curveball, which boasts the highest average spin rate recorded at any level, including MLB, averaging around 3300 RPM. The high spin causes the pitch to break in a way that even longtime scouts say is unlike anything else they’ve ever seen, and is almost impossible for hitters to pick up.
Fla. RHP Carter Stewart has the best high school breaking ball I've seen since I started covering prospects. The industry sees his 3,000+ rpm curveball as the best breaking pitch of the 2018 high school class and potentially the class as a whole. Stewart spots the pitch regularly despite it's tremendous depth and also has a projectable frame that could help him add velocity this spring after touching 94 at times last summer and sitting in the upper 80s and low 90s. -- Twitter: CarlosACollazo College 100/High School 100 in link in bio -- #baseballamerica #baseball #mlbdraft #mlb #milb #baseballswag #baseballlove #pitching #hitting #baseballlife #baseballislife #baseballplayer #highschoolbaseball #youthsports #youthbaseball #ballplayer #playball #highschool #baseballdad #baseballcap #battingcages #dingers #basehit #baseballcap #littleleague #baseballplayers #recruiting
Stewart was throwing the pitch in the high 70s, but apparently has been working on adding velocity and pushing it into the low 80s. To stick as a starter, Stewart will need to bulk up and continue to refine his non-curveball pitches, and he’s maybe more of a project than some of the other prep pitchers in the class, but having one truly elite skill can take you pretty far, especially when that skill results in the gaudy K numbers Stewart can post.
Pick 20: Ben selects Seth Beer, 1B/OF, Clemson
In starting my research for this series, I scanned through the stat lines of all the college players MLB.com listed as top draft prospects. Seth Beer was the first guy that really caught my eye. Glancing at his stat line through his first two collegiate seasons, it’s not hard to see why.
Immediately, the lefty slugger stood out as a “Jerry Guy” on account of his walk totals being more than double his strikeout total. I would say he, Casey Mize, and Travis Swaggerty fit that profile most perfectly. His unreal freshman season was fueled in part by a .352 BABIP, but even when that number normalized in 2017 and regressed to a more maintainable .288, Beer still posted solid numbers across the board.
Following his freshman season, Beer was regarded by many as a near-lock to be drafted at or darn close to the top of the first round in the 2018 draft. He book-ended his sophomore season with a pair of disappointing wood-bat-circuits with the USA Collegiate National Team, which had lead to concerns as to whether his offensive skills will translate to the professional ranks. The other main knock on Beer, who stands 6’2” 195lb., is his lack of athleticism on the base paths and in the field.
The Georgia-native has played outfield almost exclusively for Clemson, and despite looking like a guy who could get after it in the outfield, Run-Arm-Field grades of 20-45-35 say otherwise. In watching this highlight reel from his award-winning freshman season, I thought he showed off good athleticism, even if it was for Jim Edmonds-esque reasons:
In addition to surprisingly competent defense, I was consistently wowed by Beer’s ability to sit back on breaking stuff and drive it out of the park—often times coming from left-handed pitchers by the way—as well as his ability to take a pitch on the outside of the play and send it to the left side with power.
Some team is going to fall in love with what Beer has done with the bat for the last two years, and even with the selection of 2017 first baseman and first rounder Evan White, the Mariners should have a spot for him if he can hit his way to the bigs.
Pick 21: John selects Ryan Rolison, LHP, Mississippi
The past two seasons have been an exercise in frustration for prospect lovers who follow the Mariners. High-ceilings have repeatedly been exchanged for high floors, and an exhaustion with that has borne out in our selections thus far. It’s part of why Ryan Rolison is still available for me to scoop up here.
Rolison is a lefty with three decent offerings (fastball, slider, changeup) and one elite one (curveball). He throws in the low 90s, topping out around 95, and doesn’t blow guys away. What he does is keep hitters off balance, which has led to success in college and in the Cape Cod League.
It’s difficult to get as excited about incrementaly improvements and balanced tools, but those are more often the guys who make up MLB rosters, while the guys with one elite tool falter. Rolison may not be sexy, but he’s probably solid.
Pick 22: John selects Dominic Pipkin, RHP, Pinole Valley HS (CA)
Did someone say sexy? Pipkin’s diminutive name belies a 6’4 frame with plenty of growth to do, but upside galore. Already working a mid-90s fastball with a strong slider and an in-progress changeup, Pipkin is already drawing comparisons to another raw HS draftee from California that Mariners fans may be familiar with: Taijuan Walker.
His velocity is easy and impactful.
He’s a high schooler with top-notch velocity and physicality, but predictably lacks strong control. A strong spring would shoot Pipkin up draft boards everywhere, and the sky is the limit on his potential.
Pick 23: Ben selects Cole Wilcox, RHP, Heritage HS (Georgia)
Wilcox offers up a solid three-pitch mix that consists of a fastball that typically sits in the 91-94 range—however he’s been known to reach back for a little extra and pump it up to 96 ocassionally—a slider he throws in the low 80s, and a change-up that he’ll throw anywhere from 81-84 that features some fading action. Like with a lot of the high school arms, Wilcox has got a lot of projectability tied up in his large 6’5” 220lb frame.
After winning a gold medal with Team USA 18-and-under teammates and fellow projected first round high school righties Ethan Hankins and Kumar Rocker, Wilcox saw his stock rise significantly. The main knock on him as been that he doesn’t have the smoothest mechanics. In this 2017 Perfect Game National Showcase highlight, he appears to rush through his delivery and lose control of his pitches slightly at times.
Wilcox, a Georgia native, could easily wind up honoring his commitment to University of Georgia in he feels he can improve his draft stock with a stint in college, so buyer beware for any team that opts to use their first round pick on him.
Pick 24: Kate selects Greyson Jenista, 1B/OF, Wichita State
The MVP of the Cape Cod League this year, Jenista has seen his stock shoot up after a poor performance on the Cape last year. Jenista has played mostly 1B in his college career, but has the size and athleticism to play a corner outfield spot, although he’ll need reps and instruction there. Jenista has a smooth, level swing that results in line drives and ground balls more so than light-tower power, but he has size (6’4”) and strength, so it seems like locking him in a batting cage with Braden “hit the ball in the air” Bishop might provide some good results.
Looking at his swing from the Cape this year, there are a few tweaks that I think might provide more power for him: his upper and lower halves look disconnected to me, and he seems to be generating very little torque in his load, causing him to reach out after the ball. His surge forward at the Cape this year plus consistent college numbers have pushed Jenista up from a projected middle-round draft pick to a potential first-rounder, but I admit to being less than enthused about the profile of a college-aged potential project. Luckily, we are ten picks higher than the Mariners will be on their actual draft day, and there’s a chance Jenista goes in the second round if the power numbers don’t jump some in his junior season. If he slid to the Mariners in the second round, he’d certainly have some great hitting coaches to work with (and would maybe be able to learn some better dance moves from Dee Gordon).