Eroughout almost a half-century of baseball scouting in America, where 18-year olds have come to flop and flourish, the word “projectable” has stood the test of time; the pillar of an entire industry. It’s the golden ticket in amateur evaluation. Winder, Georgia shortstop Brady House doesn’t need your projection. He’s already a grown man.
For every Ken Griffey Jr. or Joe Mauer, there’s a Marc Newfield or Alex Jackson. For every Bryce Harper and Justin Upton, there’s a Delmon Young and a Tim Beckham.
House will almost certainly sandwich his legacy somewhere in the middle of those players. He’s arguably the best prep bat in the 2021 class, and could be a top five pick next June.
Barely 17 years old, House already stands 6-foot-3, a powder-keg 215 pounds of Georgia muscle. It’s an impressive, thick, muscular build that has no business being owned by a high school body. He’s physically superior to every player in the 2021 draft, and evaluators are thrilled the tools stack up with the stature.
Let’s give Brock Huard a moment of silence to catch his breath and fan his brow...
It’s hard to put into words just how gifted House is on a baseball field. Bat and glove totally aside, House can pump 97 on the mound too. If the bat and athlete weren’t so special, we’d be talking about one of the better pitching prospects in the draft. But that’s just it... the whole package is that special. We’re not talking about a stick that needs a ton of forecasting here either. It’s simply cut from a different cloth than any other guy.
The biggest question surrounding House at this stage might be where he plays defensively long-term. Currently a shortstop, House’s thick, dense body might force him over to third base or a corner outfield role. That being said, he moves incredibly well for a guy his size. His frame might list the same as Corey Seager or Carlos Correa, but the limbs are shorter and the waist is lower. He’s more of a barrel-chested body that doesn’t stride quite like the big-bodied shortstops before him. He’s got fluid actions on the dirt, and his hands are capable of handling the position. Don’t let your mind jump to Blaze Jordan from the 2020 draft class, comparing the two as pure athletes is apples to oranges.
Hype is dangerous. Temperance is important when talking about teenage draftees. The transition from prep ball to pro ball is, well, significant. Nobody is saying this kid is going to debut as a teenager. He, like every single high school draftee out there has his warts.
With that said, let’s dive right in and examine his Brady Bunch of tools:
I think House has every bit the potential to out-hit this projection. Most evaluators have him anywhere between a 45 hitter and a 60 hitter at the next level. The affinity for House’s operation at the plate begins with his quiet and consistent mechanics. He rarely gets out from within his approach and stays short and inside the ball in most cases. He recognizes pitches well (albeit mostly against guys throwing 85-88) and adjusts. His approach can get a bit pull-happy when he knows he has the opposition overmatched, but in national showcase events House has also shown a keen ability to sit back on a breaking ball and go the other way with tough pitches. That being said, against good breaking balls, he has shown a habit of leaning out over the plate and getting out in front... there’s some swing and miss, reaching at times, but not to the point where it’s necessarily a concern at this point. The leg kick is minimal, and that’s a big plus in my book for preps. So many young hitters use exorbitant leg kicks to get to their power stroke and House doesn’t need to. He does a fantastic job getting into his legs at the plate in the same way Albert Pujols does, letting his core rotation and weight transfer do all the heavy lifting. Evaluators will have a better idea of just where the hit tool sits after the Perfect Game All-America event in early September when he’ll be matched up consistently against guys throwing in the low-to-mid 90s with advanced breaking balls and better off-speed stuff. To this point, House hasn’t done much to dissuade folks in their beliefs in the hit tool, and his swing largely suggests it should translate seamlessly against better velo.
I’m rather bullish on the impact of his stick. I wear this. The plus-plus power is about as high as you’ll see him graded, and you won’t find an evaluator on earth that has him anything less than plus (60).
Sidebar: 65 is not a grade.
House’s physicality and strength at impact is so advanced for his age. His natural bat path has plenty of loft and the leverage he gets from his lower half is impressive. The timing mechanism and vertical bat angle (VBA) is similar to that of a guy like Nolan Arenado. It’s not a production comparison by any means, but there’s a similar foundation there to build and dream upon. His hip extension at contact is among the best I’ve seen this class, allowing him to transfer a ton of core force through his legs and torso, into his hips and through the ball. The hands don’t drift as he loads into his back hip. As if it wasn’t obvious, House’s barrel velocity is also among the best in class. As a junior last summer, he clocked a 98mph exit velo on a ball off a tee which ranked among the 99.9th percentile for his class. For reference, the average for a 16/17 year old is just 81mph. The path to the ball, as mentioned earlier, is short and compact. House doesn’t often overextend himself to get to his raw power. It’s one thing to have raw power, but getting to it in-game is always the tricky part. House gets there thanks strong hands and his compact operation. It’s easy violence. The juice in the stick screams next level impact bat.
Here’s House hitting what can only be presumed is a 450ft home run as a 15 year old in the U-15 Baseball World Cup. It does a fantastic job of highlighting all the strengths of his swing.
And one more for good measure...
(Might I remind you, high school kids hitting home runs in showcase events just doesn’t happen)
If we’re talking about House as a pure shortstop, you’re looking at a fringe average defender in the beginning of his career, likely regressing into a below average defender by the time he hits his peak. Think Yunel Escobar.
House’s hands are fine. They’re not great, and they’re not a liability either. They’re not the ‘softest’ hands in the world, but they largely get the job done. As stated, he moves pretty well for a guy his size and can comfortably make the easy plays. Going to his left, he’s fairly smooth with quiet feet. Coming in is the same story. Going to his right and utilizing the backhand is when his hands aren’t quite as reliable. House has a big arm, so planting and making the throw in the hole isn’t a problem.
Should House have to shift to third base or the outfield, his tools play up. The arm would be an asset at either position, and his athleticism and familiarity with the dirt would play well at third base. House doesn’t run particularly well, so third base would be the preferred avenue to optimize defensive value. He’d be an average defender at third, maybe a tick above.
Whenever you’re talking about a kid that can throw 95-97 on the mound, you’d expect him to have a good arm in the field, and House doesn’t disappoint. It’s a whippy, slingshot short-arm action that fires the ball across the diamond from a 3⁄4 slot with pace and accuracy. The arm path has some of the same tendencies as Adrian Beltre — this by no means being a comparison to one of the all-time greats. He has no issues coming in and going low, getting the ball to first from a low slot. It’s not the most conventional arm action, but it works on the diamond, less-so in the outfield. His throws from the grass feature plenty of carry but possess some tail mostly due to the arm-slot. Let’s not make this too complicated. It’s a really good arm that’ll play anywhere on the diamond, specifically impressing on the dirt.
If there’s one gripe on Brady House it’s probably his speed. He’s by no means a lumbering guy, he just doesn’t have wheels. Given his physique, it’s hard to imagine the speed tool improving as he’ll probably slow down a bit as he reaches his mid-20s. As far as straight line speed goes, House generally clocks 60-yard dash times in the 7.05-7.15 range. This would grade him out as a 40 runner, but he’s a little better underway than he is out of the box. I’ve clocked House home-to-first just twice, once at 4.53 seconds, the other at 4.56 seconds. The former is pretty indicative of a 30 runner, the latter being even a shade slower. Speed will never be House’s greatest asset, but his physicality also doesn’t suggest his body will regress into a sluggish liability on the base paths either.
The elephant in the room here is Seattle’s reluctance to draft any high school players in the early rounds. Joe Rizzo was the last prep infielder taken in the first three rounds of any draft four and a half years ago. Conventional wisdom suggests the Mariners will go the college pitching route once again in 2021, but let me plant a little seed in your mind. There was only a handful of college baseball games in 2020. There is no Cape Cod summer ball. There’s no guarantees we’ll have college baseball next February. Say the Mariners end up with a pick in the 4 to 7 range... the team simply might not have enough information or peace of mind to select a college arm at that point. The upside and lack of depth in the system on the infield may be too much to pass up.