Since May, when the Mariners somehow managed to win negative games (don’t fact check us on this, it is correct), we at the site have been thinking about the possibility of a top-10 draft pick, because we like to seek joy in dark places. To that end, we’ve instituted a weekly series where we examine some of the top available names in the 2020 draft; you can catch up with that here.
While we’ve been focusing our weekly installments on a split between the best prep and college players available, it’s important to note that each class of prospect has their own season, turn, turn, turn; college players have the Cape Cod League and the collegiate Team USA, but summer is when most of the top-level showcases are for prep players before they return to pep rallies and guidance counselors and biology homework, and for high school players who don’t play on elite travel teams or live in the hotbeds of California/Texas/Georgia, it’s their last chance to make a big splash. While there are several big-deal showcases over the summer, including the nationally-televised Under Armour Game and the high school All-Star Game/HRD held during the All-Star Break, the last big one is the Perfect Game All-American Classic, which will take place this Sunday at 5 PM PT and be televised on MLB network.
Personally, the PGAAC is my favorite of the various showcases, partly because it’s easily accessible—both televised on MLBN and available on PG’s YouTube channel after the fact—and partly because it’s more than just a flyover for participants but a multi-day experience that includes a service component with a local hospital and extensive interviews, which helps you get to know the players on a more personal level. I remember in the summer of 2017 falling in love with a player during the interview portion who wasn’t one of the top elite names but who was well-spoken, humble, reflective, oriented towards his other teammates rather than just focused on himself, and seemed to possess a deep love for the game of baseball. I was delighted to see that player make an incredible play in the outfield, later awarded the play of the game. That player’s name?
New @Mariners OF Prospect Jarred Kelenic had the @gformbaseball play of the game at 2017 @PGAllAmerican Classic with this great catch in RF. Top ranked position prospect in 2018 class https://t.co/DNrO3W5KiZ pic.twitter.com/FnmUwYFb54— Perfect Game USA (@PerfectGameUSA) December 4, 2018
Kelenic, of course, would slip out of the Mariners’ clutches that draft, when they took college pitcher Logan Gilbert (not mad about it!) instead.
This year, the Mariners look to be in the catbird seat, as they currently sit with the #6 pick in the draft—the same pick with which the Mets selected Jarred Kelenic in 2018. Despite Keith Law repeatedly mocking Kelenic to the Mariners in his mock drafts, some part of me knew he wouldn’t get all the way to 14. This year, you should feel free to dream on almost any prospect you like. It’s the lone payoff for watching the level of baseball we’re watching this year at the major league level. With that in mind, I encourage you to check out the Perfect Game All-American Classic this Sunday, August 11th. It starts at 5 PM PT, and you can find it on MLB Network, or later on YouTube. Here are some players to keep an eye on:
RHP Jared Kelley, Refugio HS (TX)
My favorite arm in this class, Kelley is a big, physical pitcher with great mound presence and plus velocity but also knows how to pitch, and he’s more than just a big fastball, throwing a plus changeup as well. He’s also a 3.9 student who prides himself on his academics and seems to be a super kid. Read his writeup here.
RHP Mick Abel, Jesuit HS (OR)
A local kid! Shouts out to Tigard, OR! Joe will have a writeup on Abel soon, but the quick-and-dirty: he’s 6’5” with big velocity but an effortless delivery, a plus slider, and movement on all his pitches. He’s also big into analytics, and would be a great fit for the organization.
LHP Nate Savino, Potomac Falls HS (VA)
Maybe the top lefty in the prep class, the 6’3” Savino can get up to the mid-90s with heavy sink thanks to a lower arm slot and repeats his mechanics well, and also throws a slurvy breaking ball that he can spin well. He has drawn comparisons both to 2018 draftee Matthew Liberatore (one of my favorites in that draft) and Madison Bumgarner.
RHP Victor Mederos, Monsignor Pace HS (FL)
Mederos isn’t as high on some draft boards (FG has him outside their top 100) but he’s got a ton of helium right now after showing up big at the Under Armour Classic, winning MVP. Mederos has some of the best secondary stuff in this class, with a sweeping slider and a plus curve. He isn’t the tallest (6’2”) but he has a big, durable pitcher’s body and uses his physicality to generate sinking action on his 92-94 mph fastball. He’s also spoken of very highly by his coaches as a mature kid with a great personality who’s always having fun and smiling; think Juliooooooooo, but pitcher.
RHP Jared Jones, La Mirada HS (CA)
A two-way player with plus arm strength who’s been clocked at 100 mph throwing from the outfield. Because he’s divided his time on and off the mound, his delivery isn’t quite as polished as some of the other pitchers here, but there’s plenty to work with in his fastball-curveball-slider-changeup arsenal.
Other ones to watch: RHP Carson Montgomery, hard-throwing righty from California with an unorthodox delivery; RHP Cam Brown, Texas arm with a mid-90s fastball and a slurve; 6’6” LHP Dax Fulton who only throws in the low 90s but has plus secondary stuff and creates a very tough angle due to being 95% arms and legs.
1B Blaze Jordan, DeSoto HS (MS)
Viral sensation dubbed “the next Bryce Harper,” Jordan is the youngest player in this class, having reclassified to be eligible this year. Jordan’s carrying tool is his powerful righty bat, and he projects to hit for both average and massive power.
SS Yohandy Morales, Braddock HS (FL)
Built along the lines of Carlos Correa, the 6’4” Morales has plenty of raw power but an inconsistent bat. He doesn’t have the rocket arm of some of the other shortstops in the class, but has good range and plus speed, and overall plus athleticism in a frame to dream on.
3B Jordan Walker, Decatur HS (GA)
6’5” but very agile at the hot corner thanks to solid footwork, plus athleticism and speed; gap-to-gap doubles power in the bat and maybe more; excellent student and member of the NHS.
SS Ed Howard, Mount Carmel HS (IL)
Howard isn’t high on FG’s list, but he’s been opening eyes with some strong play in showcases this summer. He has solid fundamentals at shortstop and good athleticism that should keep him there, and good bat-to-ball skills. With plus physical projection, the right team could develop him into something special. Perennial honor roll student.
3B Cayden Wallace, Greenbrier HS (AR)
A Kyle Seager-esque compact, strong build, with solid tools across the board and the potential to hit for power as he matures. Showcases plus speed for a corner infielder, and should have the glove (and bat) to stick at the hot corner.
Other ones to watch: 6’4” power-hitting 3B Coby Mayo, who looks like he got lost on his way to the outfield and decided to set up camp at third; sweet-swinging switch-hitter SS Alex Freeland; two-way player SS Cade Horton with plus arm strength (he can hit 95 off the mound) with plus speed and some pop in the bat.
Dylan Crews, Lake Mary HS (FL)
My favorite position player in this group, with a beautiful, smooth, balanced swing from the right-handed side and maybe the best hit tool in the class. Think Jarred Kelenic, but with a bigger body and more power. I wrote him up here.
Pete Crow-Armstong, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
If Crews is my favorite righty hitter, Crow-Armstrong is my favorite lefty for the same reasons, and also a favorite of Tim, who did his preview, which you can read here. PCA has a defensive edge on Crews and projects to stick in center.
Austin Hendrick, West Allegheny HS (PA)
A lefty slugger with huge power and elite bat speed out of a cold-weather state (shoutout to Pittsburgh, an underrated American city). Hendrick has the most distinctive batting stance in this class, working from a very narrow base that’s almost Ichiro-like; Hendrick is now 6’1”/195 but says he was a “smaller, weaker kid” and developed his stance to get the most out of his frame. He’s also got a unique timing mechanism with a funny foot tap that looks like jazz hands, but for feet. Some teams might not appreciate Hendrick’s idiosyncratic approach; others will be more interested in the clear Griffey influence in his swing, as well as the balls flying off his bat.
Zac Veen, Spruce Creek HS (FL)
6’4’ lefty slugger who will invite Bellinger comps, although his swing isn’t as violently uppercutty, and Veen is a true five-tool player who projects to stick at center field. Extra-long legs with plus speed as he gallops around the bases or closes on balls in center.
Mario Zabala, International Baseball Academy (PR)
Big, strong righty hitter who can hit for power, is one of the best runners in the class, and has a cannon for an arm. Radiates love for baseball.
Other ones to watch: Two-way player Robert Hassell III; five-tool athlete Chase Davis, who has some of the quickest hands in the class; uncommitted pop-up prospect Jace Bohrofen.
Drew Romo, The Woodlands (TX)
The consensus best prep catcher in the country, a switch-hitter with an elite (1.76!!!) pop time and a strong, accurate arm.
Kevin Parada, Loyola HS (CA)
If Romo is a defense-first catcher, Parada is the opposite; his calling card is his powerful right-handed bat. An intriguing blend of strength and speed, there’s a less-than-zero chance Parada sticks behind the plate, but his natural athleticism will allow for a position shift to the outfield if necessary.
I’ve tried to keep this list to players who currently appear in the Top 20 prep prospects at Baseball America and FanGraphs, but having watched the Perfect Game selection show, here are a few lower-ranked guys who intrigued me:
RHP Will Sanders, Woodward Academy (SC)
Sanders doesn’t throw hard (91ish tops), so he doesn’t get the love some of the other prep pitchers do, but he’s 6’6” and reminds me of Logan Gilbert with his rich arsenal (the fastball is his third-best pitch; he throws a plus curve and change) and the movement he’s able to get on his pitches, all of which he can land for strikes. Sanders was 5’11” just three years ago, so there’s been a lot of stretching-out in a short time for him, and bigger velocity will come as he bulks up his new frame.
OF Slade Wilks, Columbia Academy (MS)
Tyler O’Neill-type strong, compact body who also likes to put a hurting on baseballs.
RHP Ryan Hagenow, Farragut HS (TN)
6’5” with long limbs and works out of a low slot with some funk that is very deceptive for batters, making him a strikeout machine. One of the youngest players in the class and a project, but the stuff jumps out.
RHP Max Carlson, Burnsville HS (MN)
Yes, as in Mariners 2017 draftee Sam Carlson’s little brother. Max, who is also a state-level hurdler, is committed to North Carolina but might go the way of his big bro with his four-pitch mix, although he’s not the physical specimen his big bro is, standing just 6’1”.